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The Stoics 

Second Edition 

F.H. Sandbach 

Cornell University 

The original of tliis book is in 
tine Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
the United States on the use of the text. 



F. H. Sandbach 

Emeritus Professor of Classics, 
University of Cambridge 

Second Edition 

Published in the U.K. by PubUshed in North America by 

Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd. Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. 

London Indianapolis/ Cambridge 




First published in 1975 by Chatto & Windus Ltd. 

Second edition published in 1989 by Bristol Classical Press 

Reprinted in 1994 by 

Bristol Classical Press 

an imprint of 

Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd. 

The Old Piano Factory 

48 Hoxton Square, London Nl 6PB 

and by 

Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. 

P.O. Box 44937 
Indianapolis, Indiana 46244-0937 

Copyright © 1975, 1989 by F. H. Sandbach 

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Chronological Table 








The Founder 



The System: Ethics 



The System: Natural Science 



The System: Logic 



Fate and Free Will, Providence and Evil 



Personalities of the Earlier Stoa 



Innovation: Panaetius and Posidonius 



Stoics and Politics 



The Later Stoics 


Select Bibliography 








Chronological Table 

Since Greek calendars did not coincide with ours some of these dates are 
slightly uncertain. For example, an event here assigned to 307 may have 
taken place in the earlier part of 306. 

An asterisk distinguishes heads of the Stoic school at Athens. 

Leading Stoics 

♦Zeno of Citium, born c. 333 

came to Athens 312 

died 262 
Aristo of Chios 
Persaeus of Citium 

at Corinth 243 
♦Cleanthes of Assos, died 232 
Sphaerus from the Bosporus 

at Sparta 235 
♦Chrysippus of Soli, born c. 280 

died c. 206 
♦Zeno of Tarsus 
•Diogenes of Seleucia 

(Babylon), died c. 152 
♦Antipater of Tarsus, died c. 130 
Apollodorus of Seleucia 
Archedemus of Tarsus 
Boethus of Sidon 
*Panaetius of Rhodes, bom c. 185 

associated with Scipio and his 

friends 138(?)-129 

diedc. 110 
Hecato of Rhodes 
Posidonius of Apamea, bom c. 135, 

died c. 55 
Seneca the Younger, bom ad 1 

died AD 65 
Musonius, banished ad 65 

at Rome ad 89 
Epictetus, opens school at Nicopolis 

AD 89 
Marcus Aurelius, bom ad 12.1 

Emperor ad 161-180 


Joint heads 

Important events 

Death of Aristotie 322 
Foimdation of Peripatetic School 

by Theophrastus c. 317 
Polemo succeeds Xenocrates as 

head of the Academy 314 

Epicurus opens school in Athens 307 
Arcesilaus head of the (Middle) 
Academy 268 (?) - 241 

Cameades revives scepticism in the 
(New) Academy 

Carneades and Diogenes on embassy 

to Rome 155 
Sack of Corinth by Mimimius 146 
Carneades died 129 

Antiochus of Ascjilon borrows much 

from Stoicism (Fifth Academy) 
Sack of Athens by Sulla 86 
Cicero writes on philosophy, mainly 
in 45 and 44 

Augustus, Emperor 23 bo-ad 14 
Nero, Emperor ad 54-68 
Vespasian, Emperor ad 70-79 

Hadrian, Emperor ad 1 17-138 


STOICISM, a philosophical system which originated at the 
beginning of the third century BC, was an intellectual and social 
influence of prime importance for five centuries; after that its 
effects are evident in many Christian writers; and since the 
Renaissance its teaching has affected both philosophers and 
thoughtful men in search of a guide to life. In the late nineteenth 
century the German philosopher Dilthey wrote that it had been 
'the strongest and most lasting influence that any philosophic 
ethic had been able to achieve'. 

Not only the ethics of the Stoics but other parts also of their 
philosophy have been influential, as Dilthey himself did much to 
show. But it is for ethics that they have been best known and it 
is about their ethics that we are best informed; accordingly this 
book emphasises that aspect of their work. To trace their 
influence in later times is beyond my competence; I have 
attempted to write about them as they were and to sketch their 
position in the ancient world. 

I have greatly profited from the generous help of several 
persons, for whose aid I am deeply grateful. My wife and my son 
made me understand some at least of the needs of readers 
without a classical background; Professor I.G. Kidd took much 
trouble over his helpful comments on the section which deals 
with Posidonius; Mr H J. Easterling read the whole and offered 
valuable criticisms and suggestions. Finally Professor Moses 
Finleys acute and constructive scrutiny of the last draft did much 
to improve both accuracy and clarity. For faults and errors that 
remain and for any controversial opinions expressed the 
responsibility is entirely mine. 
Cambridge, 1975 F.H.S. 

In this reprint some additions have been made to bring the 

bibliography up to date. 

Cambridge, 1988 F.H.S. 



In the andent woi'ld of the Greeks and the Romans the words 
'philosophy' and 'philosopher' carried different suggestions from 
those they have today. Literally they mean love of Wisdom', 
'lover of wisdom', and to understand anything at all may be 
part of wisdom. Therefore the ancient philosopiher might ven- 
ture into fields that are today occupied by specialists, astrono- 
mers, meteorologists, literary critics, social scientists and so on. 
To speak in general terms, they had an insuffidient appreciation 
of the value of experiment and patient observation; a priori 
reasoning and .inference from a few supposed facts were basis 
enough for explaining the subject in hand. To say this is not to 
condemn this 'philosophical' activity as useless. Many of lits 
results were mistaken, like most of Aristotle's meteorology, 
but others were steps in the right direction, like Demooritus' 
atomic theory. Intuitive guesswork has always been one of the 
methods by which knowledge has advanced. Too often, how- 
ever, the ancients did not know how to test their guesses, or even 
that they needed testing. 

The modem philosopher agrees with the ancient that ethics 
belongs to him. But there is a difference. C. D. Broad suggested 
that a study of ethics would do as little good to a man's conduct 
as a study of dynamics would to his performance on the golf- 
links {Five Types of Ethical Theory p. 285). Not all philosophers 
of today would hold such an extreme position, but it is the oppo- 
site of that which was all but universal in the ancient world. We 
study ethics, said Aristotle, not in order to know what goodness 
is but in order to become good {Nicomachean Ethics 1103 b.27). 
The ancient philosopher, imless he was a sceptic and on prin- 
ciple refused to commit himself, was convinced that ethics had 
practical consequences; he also held that whatever other sub- 
jects he might study, this was the one of first importance. No 
wisdom could have a higher value than a knowledge of how to 
live and behave. Some thinkers may have found a more attrac- 
tive challenge in non-ethical problems, but none could leave 



ethics aside, the more so because Greek religion, and even more 
Roman, failed to give adequate guidance. It was largely a matter 
of ritual, and although not devoid of moral influence, did not 
offer any coherent set of reasons for the behaviour it encouraged. 
If any one person can be credited with being the cause of this 
primacy of ethics, it is Socrates, an Athenian of the later fifth 
century bg, who exerted a fascination on following generations 
that is not exhausted even today. He left no writings, but his 
memory was preserved in the dialogues composed by those who 
had known him and who made him a character in their works. 
The figiM'e that appears is of a man who was overwhelmingly 
interested in discovering the key to right conduct, who by ques- 
tioning diose whom he met forced them to recognise the in- 
adequacy and inconsistency of their thinking on morality, and 
who hoped to find the answer to his problems by defining the 
terms of ethical vocabulary, virtue, bravery, justice, and so on. 
He believed that if one could only know what is good, one could 
not help but do it; no one was willingly bad, and badness was 
the result of not knowing what was good. He did not himself 
cl'dm to have this knowledge; he was only a lover of wisdom 
{phiiosophos), not a wise man (sophos). But he attracted a nimi- 
ber of younger men who found intellectuai excitement in hear- 
ing him discuss, or discussing with him, these problems. Their 
attachment was increased when in 399 bc he was prosecuted 
and condemned to death on a charge of 'not recognising the 
gods recognised by the state, introducing new divinities, and 
corrupting the young'. The prosecutors no doubt thought that 
the stability of society was threatened by his influence, which 
encouraged young men to question traditional assumptions; 
several of his friends had emphasised the faults of democracy 
as practised at Athens, and among them the brilliant Critias had 
in particular excited hatred as leader of the 'Thirty Tyrants', 
dictators who after Athens' defeat in the Peloponnesian War 
had with Spartan aid seized power and bloodily maintained it 
for more than a year. 

Socrates' death turned him into a martyr, and far from check- 
ing his influence made it grow. Many of his younger friends 
tried to continue his work and attracted to themselves others 
who had intellectual interests or a desire to find a rule for life. 
A large literature came into existence, which represented him 



as the writers would have had him be. The most important 
works were the dialogues of Plato, where Socrates is made to 
carry his spirit of inquiry into subjects, above all psychologfy 
and metaphysics, which had never occupied him, and to express 
views that became more and more positive as time went on. It 
was probably about 388 that Plato established the body that 
came to be known as the Academy, because it occupied buildings 
near the exerdse-ground of that name. This was constituted as 
an association fbr the worship of the Muses and its members, 
although no doubt in sympathy with Plato, were independent 
and sometimes critical of him. Aristotle was among those who 
worked there; he came as a youth from Macedonia in 367, by 
no means the only recruit from abroad, and remained until 
Plato's death twenty years later. He then went to Asia Minor 
and Macedonia, returning to Athens for the period 335 or 334 
to 323 OT 322, during which he did some teaching in the Lyceum, 
another place of exercise. 

Meanwhile the Academy flourished under the leadership first 
of Plato's nephew Speusippus and then of Xenocrates. All the 
pi^inoipal figures in it were men of means who could freely de- 
vote themselves to philosophical, mathematical, and scientific 
pursuits, and the young men who came to their lectures or 
classes were no doubt the sons of well^o-do fathers. Very dif- 
ferent was another hne of descent from Socrates, who had been 
a comparatively poor man; his clothes were old and he usixally 
went barefoot. This aspect appealed to Antisthenes, who main- 
tained that wealth and poverty were to be found in the soul not 
in the purse, and that his own lack of material possessions gave 
him freedom. He was a copious writer df works, now entirely 
lost, on a variety of subjects; Aristotle scornfully mentions some 
of his views on logic. But historically he is important because 
his writings later stimulated Diogenes, the first of the Cynics, to 
preach the ascetic manner of life as 'natural' and the way to 
freedom. Outside Athens Socrates' influence went on in various 
places, most importantly in Megara, where there was a school 
of which little is known except that it did important work in 
logic. Academics, Cynics, and Megarians were all to have their 
influence on Stoicism. 

In the fourth century a young man could choose between two 
forms of higher education, either rhetoric, that is to say training 



in tJie methods of persuasive speech, or philosophy, which was 
a subject of uncertain scope, depending on the interests of the 
philosopher to whom he attached himself. But in the Academy 
it was divided 'into logic, 'physics' or the study of the physical 
world, and ethics, which was regarded not as a theoretical sub- 
ject but one which would have a practical result in right action. 
The Latin dramatist Terence, translating a play by the Athenian 
Menander written about the end of the fourth century, makes 
a father say that 'pretty well all young men have some pursuit: 
they keep horses or hounds for hunting or go to philosophers 
. . . my son did all these things in a quiet way" {Andria 55-7). 
There was doubdess a large number of men Willi time on their 
hands, and many of them will have sampled what philosophers 
had to offer. 

This was die situation when at the end. of the fourth century 
Zeno formed the system of thought that we know as Stoicism. 
His primary concern was to establish principles to govern con- 
duct; not merely to lay them down, but to show tliey were right. 
This involved him and perhaps still more his immediate succes- 
sors, Cleanthes and Chryslippus, in other subjects which, we are 
inclined to regard as independent and to pursue for their own 
sakes. The question of right conduct could not be settied without 
understanding the relation of man to the universe. Seeing him 
as a single cell, as it were, in a great being with its own life, these 
Stoics had to attempt to give an account of the processes of that 
life. Then it was necessary to show that man could have know- 
ledge of the physical world in which he found himself, and how 
he could correctly develop by reasoning flie primary information 
he obtained. Such questions, in themselves purely intellectual, 
were embarked on as unavoidable if moral principles were to be 
securely laid down, but they could in practice be pursued for 
their own sake. 

There is a parallel here with the system of Zeno's slightly 
older contemporary Epicurus. For him also the centre of philo- 
sophy was the question of how one should act. He believed that 
the only proper object was one's own pleasure, most surely to be 
attained by a retired and simple life; the greatest obstacles to 
a pleasant life were anxieties caused by a belief in life after death 
and that the gods organised or interfered with the running of 
the world. This led him to give an elaborate account of physical 


things, their origin and decay, to argue that all that happens is 
due to mechanical causes and that death must destroy the soul 
that gave the body its life. One has the impression that he often 
took a purely lintellectual pleasure in such arguments, and that 
thedx ethical bearing was not always prominent lin his mind. 
Similarly with the Stoics, one may suspect that Chrysippiis, for 
example, pursued his investigations into logic because he found 
them interesting rather than because they were necessary for 

There were men who called themselves Stoics for more than 
five hundred years. Such a time could not pass without changes. 
It is imfortunate that the nature of our sources, shortly to 
be described, does not allow more than a rough account of 

Of Chrysippus, who worked in the latter half of the third 
centiuy, it was said that 'if there had been no Chrysippus, there 
would have been no Stoa'. He seems to have restated, expanded, 
and to some extent modified the views of Zeno, to have drawn 
out and accepted even their paradoxical implications, and to 
have established what can be called an orthodoxy. His succes- 
sors 'in the next half -century were mainly concerned to defend 
this orthodoxy against the attacks of Carneades. The Academy, 
of which he was head, had already before the time of Chrysippus 
adopted the sceptical f)osition that nothing could be known, that 
is known to be certainly true. Carneades was ready to attack any 
doctrine advanced by other philosophers, but his criticisms fas- 
tened particularly on the Stoics. They tried to evade the difficul- 
ties by re-phrasing rather than by any real change of meaning. 
The very fragmentary infommtion that survives about these men 
suggests that they took a greater practical interest dian the more 
theoretical Chrysippus had done in the kind of problems that 
arose for decision in real life. 

That was certainly true of Panaetlius, who was active in the 
latter j>art of the second century. What concerned him was not 
the ideal sage, but the real actual hxmian being in all his variety. 
He was prepared to re- thirds and re-fashion his philosophy, 
taking into account some of the views of Plato and Aristotle, for 
both of whom he had a high regard. So had his pupil Posidonius, 
who stands out as a unique figure among the Stoics for the 
breadth of his studies, which included geography, anthropology, 



and history, and for his unwavering detennination to see know- 
ledge as an integrated whole. 

The intellectual energy of Panaetius and Posidonius had no 
imitators. But in their time and very much through the influence 
of the former. Stoicism was introduced to the Romans, among 
whom it was to have its greatest success. At first it had to com- 
pete with Epiciireanism, and there were intellectuals who were 
attracted by the suspension of judgment recommended by the 
Academy. But the Romans tended to be active practical men; 
many of Cicero's Epicurean contemporaries disregarded their 
founder's preference for a retired life and his distrust of politics; 
Cicero himself, professedly an Academic, was deeply affected by 
Stoicism, being allowed by his sceptical p)rin<£ples to accept 
views as probable, although they could not be certain. By the 
end of the first century bg Stoicism was without doubt the pre- 
dominant philosophy among the Romans, and references to 
Stoic doctrines, hostile or favourable, are common in Latin liter- 
ature. There were soon to be Stoic poets, Manilius with his di- 
dactic poem on astrology, Persius with his crabbed satires, Lucan 
with his epic on the civil wars. Although Virgil was an Epicurean 
as a young man, without Stoicism his Aeneid could not have 
taken the form it has. The Roman lawyers too were powerfully 
affected, deriving from Stoicism ,the concept of a law of nature, 
the product of reason, to agree with which human laws should 
be adapted. 

This influential position was won because Stoicism, while 
possessing an organised system of thought to support its doc- 
trines, advanced some ideas which met current needs. The belief 
that the world was entirely ruled by Providence would have an 
appeal to the ruling class of a ruling people; but it was also a 
comfort to those for whom things went wrong. To accept mis- 
fortune without resentment as something divinely ordered led 
to ease of mind. Then a man who could rid himself of fear, of 
cupidity, of anger, as this philosophy commanded, had escaped 
much cause of unhappiness. It was possible also to derive from 
it mudi in the way of practical moral precept. Such aspects 
seem to have been emphasised at Rome. 

In the Greek worid of the first two centuries of our era 
Stoicism dearly remained a lively influence. But diis is known 
more from the controversial writing of opponents like Plutarch, 


Galen, and Sextus Empiricus, who undoubtedly have a living 
tradition in view, than from any information about personali- 
ties. Those who are named remain shadowy figiu"es, and there 
is no evidence that an organised school continued in Athens 
after the sack of that town by Sulla in 86 bg. But it will hardly 
be wrong to suppose that alongside a concern for practical 
mora:lity there persisted an interest in its theoretical justification 
and in the problems of logic and of the natural world; many of 
the writings of Chrysippus and his successors of the second cen- 
tury were still available and studied. 

But the Stoics of this time whose names are familiar all learned 
'dieir StoicSsm in Rome. Seneca was, however, tiie only one who 
wrote in Latin. The oral teaching of Musonius and Epdctetus is 
reported in Greek, and that was certainly the language used by 
the latter, probably that of the former too. Marcus Aurelius dlso 
wrote his Meditations in Greek. Greek had for centuries been 
the language of philosophy, for which Latin was an inferior 
vehicle, being less flexible and lacking a technical vocabulary. 
Many educated Romans understood Greek, and so Greek 
teachers of philosophy had no incentive to master a foreign 

It is these authors from the Roman world who survive to re- 
present Stoic literature. Although they are one-sided, their per- 
sonalities come out strongly in their books and secured them 
many readers until recent times. Very different from one an- 
other, they share a common outlook. They ihave a minimal in- 
terest in anything but ethics and see in Stoic philosophy an 
established system of beliefs that could guide, comfort, and 
support a man in the difficulties and dangers of life. They are 
preachers of a religion, not humble inquirers after truth. It was 
not unusual at Rome for a wealthy family to keep a philosopher, 
much as great families in England used to keep a chaplain. The 
philosopher is often called the "doctor of the sou'l', and to Seneca 
he is the 'paedagogus' of the human race, that is the servant who 
supervised the behaviour of the growing child. 

The third century ad brought a sudden decline. The peaceful 
and prosperous age of the Antonines was succeeded by turmoil, 
civil war, and a growingly restrictive form of society. New re- 
ligions, and for the philosophically inclined a revived Platonism, 
offered the consolations of life after death for the miseries, hard 



to approve, of this world. But although professed Stoics became 
few, Stoicism continued to exert its influence. In particular it 
provided a great deal of material to those members of the Chris- 
tian church who wished t» build up an intellectual structure on 
their faadi. They might absorb it, alter it, or rdfute it; but in 
any case 'diey were in part moulded by it. 

A difficulty faces anyone who writes about the Stoics: not a 
single work remains extant that was written by any one of them 
during the first three hundred years after the foundation of the 
school. Of Zeno there are 'two brief quotations which are cer- 
tainly verbatim and half a dozen more which may be. Of Clean- 
thes, his successor, there is a little more and more still of 
Ghrysippus, but scraps only, isolated from their contexts. For 
all three, as for all the Stoics before Panaetius, we depend on 
information provided by later writers, whether followers or 
opponents or historians (if they deserve the name) of philosophy. 
The last were concerned to give in a desiccated form the main 
outlines of the systems they described, sometimes citing one or 
more Stoics as authorities for a doctrine, occasionally recording 
a divergence between iheir witnesses. Of these writers the most 
important is Diogenes Laertius, now put in the second century 
AD. There is part of a rather better work by Arius Didymus, who 
was a court philosopher to the Emperor Augustus. Aetius' hand- 
book, Opinions of the Philosophers, must be used with caution. 

The chief of the opponents is Plutarch, who writing before 
and after the turn of the first century ad provides much infor- 
mation. A confirmed and unsympathetic critic of the Stoics, he 
was well4n!formed and did not intend to misrepresent the views 
he attacked. In the early half of the second century the septic 
Sextus Empiricus made it his practice to expound die doctrines 
he intended to criticise. Later in the same century the physician 
Galen, well-read and verbose, found occasion for attacking 
Chrysippus' psycholc^ at length and supporting that of Posi- 
donius; here and there he provides other pieces of information. 

Unique among the non-Stoic authorities is Cicero, who tried 
to give Greek philosophy a Latin dress to recommend it to 
Roman readers. Writing very rapidly, not always with full 
understanding of his models, and using a language which lacked 
an established philosophical vocabulary, he translated, para- 
phrased, abbreviated, and expanded Greek authors. Although 


this led to some distortion, he is indispensable not only because 
he provides the earliest evidence about the Stoics but also be- 
cause he writes with verve and feeling, preserving an element 
lost in cold siunmaries. His work On Duties was based on 
Panaetius and On the Nature of the Gads makes some use of 
Posidonius, whom he knew personally, but for the most part he 
seems to be following orthodox sources, as in On Fate and the 
third book of Goals of Life (De Finibus). 

From these varied witnesses one can reconstruct in outline a 
system which can be called orthodox Stoicism. The main hnes 
were no doubt laid down by Zeno, but Ohrysippus filled them 
out, and some of the details may have been added by later 
authors. Some points can be recognised over which Chrysippus 
disagreed with Zeno; they are noticed by our authorities. It is 
a temptation, but a mistake, for the historian of thought to dis- 
cover more divergencies; information is too uncertain and in- 
adequate to allow us to find differences that were not noted in 
antiquity. For the most part Chrysippus was probably expand- 
ing and developing rather than altering the doctrines of the 
founder; his reported saying 'Give me the views and I'll find 
the arguments' was not a claim to great originality. 

The system having been explained, the subsequent chapters 
of this book consider how later Stoics modified it and selected 
from it. Many of them are more accessible to us dian the earlier 
thinkers. Their works survive in whole or in part; more is 
known of their lives and more of the society and circumstances 
in which they lived. The early Stoics had intended their philo- 
sophy to form a guide to life, but the very nature of the evidence 
makes lihem appear 'as theoreticians. Many of the later Stoics 
were practical men of action and one can see the relevance 6f 
their beliefs to their doings. Even those who were primarily 
teachers were mainly concerned with the practical problems of 
life which faced than and their pupils. 


The Founder 

At the north-west comer of the agora, the great central square 
of Adiens, stood the Stoa Poikile or Painted Colonnade, so 
called fixMn the mural paintings by Polygnotus and other great 
artists of the fiftih century bg that adorned it. Here, in the early 
part of the third century BC, could often be seen a seated figure 
talking to a giwip of listeners; his name was Zeno and his 
followers, first called Zenonians, were later described as 'men 
from the Stoa' or 'Stoics'. 

Zeno was not an Athenian, but the son of a merchant, 
Mnaseas, from Citiimi in Cyprus. Mnaseas, although a good 
Greek name, was one sometimes adopted by Phoenicians, and 
Citium, once a Greek colony, was now predominantly Phoeni- 
cian in language, in institutions, and perhaps in population. 
Zeno's contemporaries who called him a Phoenician may have 
been justified in so doing, but he must be imagined as grow- 
ing up in an environment where Greek was important. His 
father is said to have brought home fTom Adiens many 'Socratic 
books', which fired the young man's imagination. Anecdotes of 
this kind were often invented in antiquity and must always be 
treated with some reserve, but this one at least has a certain 
plausibility, and may have been recorded by his pupil Persaeus, 
with whom he alt one time shared a house 

It was as a youth of 22 (Persaeus was cthe authority for this) 
that Zeno came' to Athens in the year 312 or 311 BC. There 
is an anecdote that he sat down by a bookseller, who was read- 
ing aloud from Book II of Xenophon's Reminiscences of Soc- 
rates {Memorabilia) : he asked where men of that kind were 
to be found; at that moment Crates the Cynic happened to 
pass by, and the bookseller replied 'Follow that man'. The story 
may be merely ben trovato, but there is no doubt that in his 
early years Zeno did come under Crates' influence, and his firet 
book, the Republic, was said to have been written when he was 
"backing up tihe dog'. 'Cynic' means 'canine', and flie first dog 
had been Diogenes, who was given that nickname because <rf 



his shameless behaviour, and who accepted it as being the watch- 
dog of morality. He was dead before Zeno came to Athens and 
Grates was the most gifted of his followers. Cynicism was hardly 
a philosophy; it was more an attitude and a way of life. Dio- 
genes, who had been reduced from affluence to poverty, found a 
guiding ligtit, as has been said, in the writings of Antisthenes. 
Right thinking, virtue, and happiness were an indissoluble trio, 
and material possessions irrelevant. Diogenes tried to show their 
imimportance by sleeping rough, relying on charity for his 
food, and having no clothes but a cloak. One of his cries was 
TDeface the currency', that is put out of circulation the arti- 
ficial coinage that passes as valuable:^ and rules and customs 
that govern our behaviour in society are nothing but a bondage 
to be sheiken off; we should live as nature commands. 

The Cynics had some admirable or at any rate attractive 
doctrines. To be good is all that matters; to be good brings 
happiness; to be wise, that is to know how to act, makes one 
good; one ought to live naturally, and freely. But these are 
isolated principles rather than a philosophic system; and they 
assume that anyone can see what constitutes goodness and what 
a natural life is. 'Virtue', Antisthenes had said, 'is not a thing 
that needs a lot of talk', and when asked what w£is the most 
necessary branch of learning, he had replied 'to xmleam your 
vices'. Although strongly affected by the Cynic outlook, Zeno 
could not remain satisfied with it and after a time he became 
a pupil of Polemo, a man of no great originality, who had 
succeeded Xenoorates as head of ■die Academy, tfie leading 
philosophical school of the day; here he will have got to know 
something of Plato's views, as modified, developed, and organ- 
ised by the master's successors. This is die influence recognised 
by the scholars of antiquity, and this is the first place to look 
for the sources of Zeno's thought. 

Many modem writers try to find a connexion with Aristotle, 
but this I believe to be a mistake, due to the tempting supposi- 
tion that he loomed as large to the generation that succeeded 
him as he does to us. There is much to suggest that those works 

^This interpretation is supported by Dio Ghrysostom 31.24, 
Julian Orations 7.2 He; see also C. T. Seltman, Proceedings of the 
Cambridge Philological Society, cxlii (1929) 7. 



of his that are read today, works mostly not prepared for pub- 
lication, sometinies barely intelligible notes, were for the most 
part not known untal lihey were edited in the first century bg. 
There may have been private copies of some made for pupils, 
but they do not in general seem to have been in the book-trade 
or to have been part of what philosophers might be expected to 
read. The only books of his mentioned by early Stoics are two 
published works, now lost, the Protrepticus {A Call to Philo- 
sophy) and On Justice. It is certain that some of his ideas were 
accepted and used by his pupil Theophrastus, who foimded the 
so-called Peripatetic sdiool shordy before Zeno's arrival in 
Athens; but although some knowledge of the impublished Aris- 
totelian doctrine may have thus reached Zeno at second-hand, 
there is no hint in the ancient sources that the Stoic ever listened 
to die Peripatetic. The foregoing sentences can give but a par- 
tial and inadequate account of the problem, but they must 
serve to explain why this book leaves Aristode ahnost entirely 
out of account. It is often said that the Stoics 'rejected' this or 
that characteristically Aristotelian doctrine: it is better to say 
that they ignored it. 

Zeno is reputed to have listened also to Diodorus 'Cronus' 
and to Stilpo, leader of the 'Megarian school', who were 
greatly interested in logica^l puzzles and the invention of ai;gu- 
ments that seemed to lead to paradoxical conclusions. It was, 
however, probably not this that attracted Zeno, who later found 
the principal merit of logic in its ability to show the falsity of 
such constructions, but rather Stilpo's moral teaching, which 
was not imUke that of the Cynics. He saw the wise man as en- 
tirely self-'sufficient, needing no friends, quite independent of 
external possessions: no one coidd take from him his wisdom, 
and he was unaffected by the misfortunes that other men would 
count as evils. It is uncertain when Zeno began to talk in the 
Stoa or how soon his teaching had taken a form to which the 
name of Stoicism can properly be given. There was no formal 
foundation of a school, and the Stoics, imlike the other three 
groups. Academy, Peripatetics, and Epicureans, had no com- 
mon property or legal status. One may imagine a gradual pro- 
cess of growth, as Zeno developed his ideas and drew to him- 
self an increasing niunber of hearers, many from overseas. 



The Stoa was a public place where foreigners were as welcome 
as citizens. But he had Athenians among his audience too. When 
he died in 262 the assembly passed a resolution to honour him 
by a tomb and by setting up inscriptions in the exercise grounds 
of the Academy and the Lyceum, places of education as well 
as sport. The decree opens with the following words: 

Since Zeno of Gitium, son of Mnaseas, has spent many years 
in the city engaged in philosopihy, and in every way has 
always shown himself a good man, and in particular by ex- 
horting to virtue and good behaviour the young men who 
came to associate with him has stimulated them to the best 
of conduct, exhibiting as an example to all his own way 
of life, which followed what he said in his talk, therefore it 
has seemed good to the people to praise Zeno of Gitium, 
son of Mnaseas, and to crown him with a golden g£irland, 

This testimonial need not be entirely disbelieved, even aJthoug'h 
the decree was proposed by one Thraso, the agent at Athens of 
Antigonus Gonatas, King of Macedon, who was an admirer of 
Zeno's, had visiited him in Athens, and vainly invited him to 
his court. A few months before Zeno's death Athens had sur- 
rendered to Antigonus, starved out by a long siege; and the 
political independence, for which she had struggled ever since 
the defeat of Ghaeronea (336 bc), had gone, never to be re- 
covered. Stoicism is sometimes represented as a philosophy 
devised to form a refuge for men disorientated by the collapse of 
the system of city-states, ^a shelter from the storm'. This is 
based on a misapprehension. The city-state had never given 
security, and it remained the standard primary form of social 
organisation even after military power had passed into the 
hands of the great monarchies. As a corrective one may quote 
the words of C. Bradford Welles : 

It is fantasy and perversion to see in Stoicism a new personal 
doctrine invented to sustain the Greeks in a dtyless world 
of great Empires, for Hellenism was a world of cities, and 
Hellenistic Greeks were making money, not worrying about 
their souls. {Greece and Rome, 1965, 227.) 



At Athens political life continued active and often bloody dur- 
ing almost the whole of Zeno's time. What is true is that durmg 
the fifty years following the death of Alexander the Great many 
Greeks left their own cities hoping, it may be presumed, to find 
a better life elsewhere. Many went to the new lands of Asia. Men 
who were looking for a wider cultural life than their own towns 
could provide would be attracted to Athens. Almost all of 
Zeno's followers whose origins are known were of this sort; 
they were people who, like him, had abandoned what rights 
and duties ihey may have had in their own cities, preferring 
the disadvantages of life as aliens, second-class residents, legally, 
politically, and socially deprived, but enjoying the stimulus of 
an intellectual ambience. 

Some scholars have seen in the real or supposed Semitic 
origin of several prominent Stoics, in particular of Zeno and 
Chrysippus, an influence on the development of their thought 
It is safer to leave this out of account. Little is known about 
the intellectual or religious climate in which they grew up, 
since it cannot have been uniform in all Semitic communities; 
the Jews and the Caxthaginians may have had something in 
common, but the differences were greater. Nor is it necessary 
to look for some factor outside Greece : Stoicism can be ade- 
quately explained as a natural development of ideas current 
among the Greeks. 

Zeno's first book, now lost like all his other works, was con- 
cerned with the structure of society. There has been much 
dispute about the intention of his Republic, and I give the inter- 
pretation that seems to me best to suit the evidence. It laid 
down how men ought to live together. Only the wise, that is 
those w'ho think right and therefore act right, do what they 
ought. Therefore he described a society of the wise, in a sense 
an ideal society, but not necessarily one that he regarded as im- 
practicable. The proposals were 'relevant to his own place and 
time' (Philodemus, Against the Stoics, xviii). He may have had 
a young man's optimism about the prospects of reform. Nor 
need he have supposed that social change must wait until all 
men were wise : his prop)osals might be practicable if they were 
accepted by a large majority in any one place. 

To entitle his book Politeia {Republic or Political State) was 
a paradox, because he swept away everydiing that the Greeks 



regarded as characteristic of the polls or organised society. 
There were to be no temples, no law-courts, no 'gymnasia', no 
money. Wise men are friends, and friends according to the 
Greek proverb, share their possessions; in a commune of friends 
■there will be no more need for cash-transactions than inside a 
family. Gymnasia, not only exercise-places, but also the scene 
of 'higher education', were an aid to political life, whidh was 
also prosecuted in the courts of law; political struggles and legal 
framework have no value for men who know how to live to- 
gether. Temples and statues of gods were the visible symbols 
of national unity; but the wise man will set no store by them, 
having a lofty contempt for the products of the manual workers' 
hands. Plutarch wrote (MoraJia 329 A) that Zeno's Politeia 
can be summarised as saying that 'we should not live organised 
in cities or in demes,^ each group distinguished by its own views 
of right, but should think all men our fellow-demesmen and 
fellow citizens, and that there should be one way of life and 
one order, like that of a flock grazing together on a common 
pasture' (or 'under a common law'). The word nomas used 
in the Greek can mean either 'pasture' or 'law', but even if the 
latter interpretation is correct, the intention was not that there 
should be any organised world state, but that wherever men 
came together they should be governed by the rule of reason, 
which would be the same the world over. Other reports repre- 
sent Zeno as speaking of what should be done in cities; he must 
have meant thereby not 'political' cities, but 'physical' cities, 
groups of men living in the same place. 

exponents of Stoicism were to make play with Zeno's pro- 
posals in this book with regard to sex. He is said to have fav- 
oured 'community of wives' or that 'any man should lie with 
any woman'. This was later accepted and defended by Chrysip- 
pus, the third head of the school, who explained that the diil- 
dren would be cared for by their elders in general and that in- 
cest was not unnatural, being common among animals. It is 
likely enough that Zeno had advanced the same considerations. 
But his reasons for advocating this sexual permissiveness, which 
extended to homosexua;l acts, are less certain. Chrysippus was 

^A deme was a subdivision of a city, with many important 
functions in society. 



to say that community of wives would avert the jealousy caused 
by adultery; but a society of wise men would be in no danger 
of feeling jealousy. More probably Zeno took over the attitude 
of the Cynic Diogenes, who had in his Republic gone even fur- 
ther, approving all forms of coition. This had been part of his 
campaign to return to nature and oast off the conventions with 
which man had impeded himself. But to Zeno it may have 
seemed that in a society of wise men and wise women monogamy 
would serve no purpose. In actual societies marri^e usually 
provided a home where diildren could be brought up, while 
hiisband and wife were a mutually supporting pair. Among the 
wise, however, charity would not begin at home : there benevo- 
lence would extend equally to all the human race; there would 
therefore be no need for the particular protection afforded 
by the household. In the real world in which the Stoics lived the 
situation was difTerent, and marriage and the rearing of children 
came to be approved. Even a wise man, if there were one, some 
were to say, would see it as right to marry. 

Of Zeno's later works little is known but the titles. These in- 
clude On the Universe, On Substance, On Vision, but predomi- 
nantly they suggest a concern with humsin behaviour, e.g. On 
Life that accords with Nature, On Impulse, On Human Nature, 
On Passions, On Appropriate Action, On Law, On Greek 
Education. He also wrote five books of Homeric Problems as 
well as about Hesiod's Theogony, no doubt accepting the 
popular view that the poets were teachers whose views were to 
be discovered by interpretation. At times he would rewrite 
verses if he disapproved their sentiment; for example he 
amended Sophocles' lines 

'Who traffics with a tyrant is his slave. 
Although he comes as free' 

by writing ' is no slave, Given he comes as free'. He is also 

the central figure of many anecdotes, which testify to his be- 
ing a man who caught people's attention. Several show him as 
putting down presumptuous young men. To a talkative youth 
he said, 'We have one tongue and two ears to listen twice as 
much as we speak'. Such reproof and even more biting ones 
earned him a reputation for harsh severity alongside the re- 


spect that was paid to his self-control and simple manner of 

By his oral teaching and in his written works Zeno must 
have laid down the outlines of the system we call Stoicism. 
But it is impossible to draw a firm line between his contribution 
and those of his successors. All that can be done in a book of 
this size, at least, is to give an account of orthodox Stoicism, with 
some reference, where the sources allow, to the founder or to 
other individual members of the school. 


The System : Ethics 

Central to the Stoic system of ethics was the view that what 
was morally perfect, virtue (aretS in the narrow sense of the 
word^) and acts and persons that were virtuous, belonged to a 
class of its own, incomparable with anything else; dial to be 
virtuous was the same as to be happy; that 'good' {agathon) 
was an absolute term applicable only to moral perfection. This 
alone always had effects of which a wise man would approve: 
everything else which ordinary speech called good, e.g. wealdi, 
health, intelligence, might be used for bad purposes, to commit 
wicked acts. Virtue, too, was an absolute term : it was a state 
such that its possessor would always do what was right,* and 
this was possible only if he always knew what was right : hence 
the virtuous man must be a wise man, and virtuous because 
he was wise. By a symmetrical process of reasoning the word 
'bad' {kakon) must be restricted to what was morally imperfect, 
and most of the diings that were in ordinary speech called 
'bad', e.g. death, ill-repute, and ugliness, should not be given 
that name, since they did not necessarily lead to wickedness, 
but might be the material for virtuous action. All such things 
like those tiiat were popularly called 'good' were per se morally 
indifferent [adiaphora). 

^AretS, conventionally translated 'virtue,' had a wider sense, more 
like 'excellence'. But, as used by the Stoics and often by philosophers 
contemporary with them, it denoted what we may call moral 
excellence, with the proviso that it included an intellectual element 
of understanding or knowledge. Hence the possessor of virtue, the 
good man, is also a 'wise man'. It was then assumed that other 
forms of excellence need not be taken into account: this moral 
excellence and human excellence were treated as identical. 

"There was a dispute whether virtue, once acquired, could be lost 
again. Cleanthes said no, Chrysippus more cautiously said that 
intoxication or madness might cause its loss. The question is not 
worth recording except as an example of the unprofitable speculation 
into which philosophers could be led. 



Goodness, however, and knowledge, although they had value 
of a unique kind, could not be the only things to have value. 
Right action was a matter of choice concerned with morally 
indifferent things — will you look for wealth or accept poverty, 
marry or remain a bachelor, live or die? — and choice between 
absolutely indifferent alternatives would not involve know- 
ledge or reason. A man who says that goodness is knowledge may 
be asked: knowledge of what? If he answers that it is know- 
ledge of goodness, the reply is unUluminating and involves an 
eternal regress. Zeno escaped from this by recognising that 
things morally indifferent were yet not without degrees of value 
or its opposite. He said that just as at a court the king was in 
a class of hiis own, sui generis, but the courtiers had their ranks 
of precedence, so the good was unique, but among things 
morally indifferent some were preferreid to others. In general 
health, wealth, and beauty, would be preferred by a sensible 
man, if he had the choice, rather than sickness, poverty, or 
ugliness. Virtue can then consist in the effort to obtain these 
things that have value and to avoid their contraries, and know- 
ledge can be knowledge of what is to be preferred. But since 
things of this sort are not good or bad, it is of no importance 
whether one has them or does not have them, so far as good- 
ness is concerned. The good intention is enough; achievement 
may be impeded by forces outside a man's control. 

Zeno held moreover that virtue or goodness was the sole 
cause of eudmmonia or happiness: the reasons for diis opinion 
will be discussed later; but if it is accepted, there is a striking 
result: happiness is not 'in any way forwarded by possession 
of things that, although preferable, are morally indifferent. Nor 
is it in any way spoiled if one is saddled with their opposites, 
for they do not prevent one from being morally good, and that 
is the only way to be happy. Throughout the history of Stoicism 
this 'is a key-point and one perhaps of increasing importance. A 
man's excellence or virtue — the Greek word areti covers 
both — does not depend on his success in obtaining anything 
in the external world, it depends entirely on his having the right 
mental attitude towards those things. The external world should 
not be a matter of indifference to him, and he is bound to recog- 
nise differences of value in it, but they are not values that con- 
tribute to his excellence and his happiness, of which he is the 



sole arbiter. The self-confidence and self-reliance v\^ich this 
belief gave to the Stoic were of immense help to many men in 
facing the dangers and misfortunes of life. Whether the belief 
is justifiable, is another question. And even for the Stoics there 
were difficulties in associating it with other beliefs that they 
held. This will appear later, on further inspection of the ideas 

For the moment it is enough to see how they insisted upon 
the cleft between the morally good and the morally indifferent, 
and between the values that attached to the two classes. The 
contrast was marked by a vocabulary which was carefully main- 
tained. The morally good was 'to be won' (hairetcm), the mor- 
ally bad 'to be fled from' {pheukton), the indifferent was either 
'to be taken' (ISpton) or 'picked' (eklekteon) or 'not to be taken' 
(alepton). It is imposible to find a set of English adjectives that 
will correctly represent the Greek words. I shall use "accept- 
able' and 'chosen' of the indifferent things that have value; 
but it must be remembered that choice does not imply that one 
is committed to getting what is chosen. One should mind only 
about what is good, i.e. morally good. The foregoing words 
signify the correct attitude towards the two dasses; another set 
represents their effects. The morally good is tjenefidal' {6phe- 
limon) or 'useful' {chresimon), the bad "harmful' {blaberon), 
indifferent things are either 'serviceable' (euchresta) or 'un- 
serviceable' {dyschrista). The two kinds of value, that of the 
morally good and that of the indifferent, are incomparable. 
One might find a parallel in the difference between counters, 
which have a value for a game, and money, which has a value 
for buying groceries. Indifferent things have a value for a 
natural life, good things value for a moral life. 

It was justifiable to argue that of all the things which the 
ordinary man calls good, those that are morally good stand in 
a class of their own and should therefore have their own name. 
The Stoic was then at liberty to say that he would call them 
good, confining that word to this use, and employ bad only of 
moral evil. But he was not entitled to say, as he did, that be- 
cause a thing was not good or bad (in his sense of the words), 
it had not the qualities normally indicated by those words. By a 
bad thing men mean something that is to be feared, regretted, 
or resented. The Stoic ar]gued as follows: 'what you call a bad 


thing is often not bad (in my sense of the word)j for example 
poverty, illness, die loss of loved ones are not bad; therrfore 
they are not to be feared or resented'. But this is a non-sequitur, 
for it has not been proved that nothing except what is morally 
bad shoidd arouse these emotions. The assumption that this 
is true depends upon a confiision. Everyone would accept the 
statement 'only what is bad is to be feared or resented', if bad 
is used in its normal manner; the Stoics unjustifiably took it 
for granted that 'nothing that is not morally bad is to be feared 
and resented'. 

What is a natural life? 

Among the things that were morally indifferent those that 
had considerable worth were said to ''have precedence' (pro- 
egmend), those with considerable 'unworth' were 'relegated' 
{apoproigmend). Nothing is heard of those with slight worth 
or unworth; presumably men have more important things to 
occupy themselves with. "Diis worth or value was relative to 
the leading of a 'natural' life or as die Stoics put it, a life 'in 
accord with nature'; for this can be promoted by everything 
which our sources represent as having precedence: life as 
opposed to death, health, beauty, strength, wealdi, good repu- 
tation, good birth, natural ability, technical skill, moral pro- 
gress, soundness of limb and of the senses, absence of pain, good 
memory, an acute mind, parents, and children. But this is not 
value for a moral life; a man is not made good by the possession 
of any of these things; even the progress of one who is making 
headway towards being good does not make him good. 

The ambiguity of the Greek word physis, translated 'nature', 
caused much difEculty to ancient thinkers, and it has created 
trouble for critics and historians of Stoicism. Literally the word 
means 'growth', then 'the way a thing grows', and by extension 
'the way a thing acts and behaves'. By a further extension it 
came to mean 'the force that causes a thing to act and behave 
as it does'. For the Stoics this force was something material, a 
constituent of the body it controls; it was found both in plants 
and in animals. Eadh individual animal has its own physis or 
way of growing and behaving, and by this is to be understood 
the way normal for members of its species. Thus it is part of 
the physis of a man to be able to see and hear. If he is blind 



or deaf, that is contrary to his physis, against his nature. But 
physis also governs the whole world, since that too was believed 
to be a living being. The physis of the world is identical with 
God, the immanent controlling force, and itself material; it is 
a 'fire that is an artificer, proceeding methodically to bring 
things into being'. (See below pp. 73, 79.) The blindness or deaf- 
ness of the man is then part of the behaviour of that great ani- 
mal the world, in which he is, in modern language, a single 
cell: it is therefore, in accord with the world's nature. 

Now although the Stoics drew a clear distinction between 
a natural and a moral life, they would have hotly denied that 
a moral life was unnatural. For although human nature in a 
narrow sense means that a man has certain physical abilities, 
that he can procreate children, associate with friends, and so on, 
and a natural life is one in which he has and uses these capaci' 
ties, yet his nature has also endowed him with reason, and it is 
on reason that a moral life is founded. This is therefore in its 
own way also a naitural life. Moreover it would be wrong to see 
in it a life opposed to what was first called a natural life; rather 
it was regarded as a development, as appears from the account 
which was given of the growth of a man's consciousness of him- 

This account, probably orthodox doctrine and probably pro- 
pagated by Ghrysippus, starts from the concept of oikeiSsis, 
a word for which there is no adequate English translation. 
Oikeion is the opposite of allotrion, what is alien; it is there- 
fore that which 'belongs to you', so that you and it go together. 
Oikeiosis is then the process of making a thing belong, and this 
is achieved by the recognition that the thing is oikeion, that it 
does belong to you, that it is yours. Sometimes translators use 
the words 'dear' and 'endearment', but although this idea is 
present, tfiose of 'belonging' and ^affinity' are stronger, and 
these latter terms will be employed in this book.^ 

Diogenes Laertius (7. 85) records the Stoic doctrine as follows : 

They say that an animal's first impulse is to self-preserva- 
tion, since Nature from the very first gives it a feeling of affi- 

*S. G. Pembroke in Problems in Stoicism ed. A. A. Long p. 1 16 uses 
'concern' and 'make well-disposed'. 



nity {oikeiousis) to itself, as Chrysippus says in Book I of his 
Goals of Life, where he declares that the first thing that be- 
longs to any animal is its own constitution and conscious- 
ness thereof.^ It is not likely that she would alienate the 
animal from itself, nor that she would make it and then 
neither alienaite it nor give it a feeling of affinity. One must 
therefore assert the remaining possibility, namely that hav- 
ing constituted it she gives it this feeling towards itself. That 
is why it pushes away what is harmful and welcomes what 
belongs to it. 

They show the falsity of the claim made by some people, 
that the first impulse of animals is towards pleasure: they say 
diat pleasure, if it occurs, is an aftermath, when nature has 
of her own accord looked for what is fitted to 'die animal's 
constitution and obtained it; it is like the sleekness of animals 
or the thriving of plants. 

Nature makes no distinction between plants and animals 
at the times when she manages the latter as she does the 
former without employing impulse and sensation, and even 
in man there are some functions of a vegetable kind. But 
animals have impulse over and above their vegetable func- 
tions, and making use of it they move to obtain that which is 
properly theirs; and so for them what is natural is to act 
according to their impulse. But since rational beings have 
been given reason, to live correctly according to reason be- 
comes natural for them. For it supervenes as a craftsman to 
control impulse. 

It appears then that man's nature from his birth directs him 
towards the acquisition of certain things that jTromote his 
survival and proper constitution. When he acquires reason, 
which happens spontaneously by the age of fourteen, he begins 
to modify these primitive impulses; since reason is a gift 
of nature, this modification is also natural. But he is also 

^The Greek is uncertain and unsatisfactory. Although the animal 
may be conscious of its own constitution and feel that consciousness 
to be something that 'belongs to it', it is not made plain what con- 
clusion follows from that feeling. In a somewhat similar passage of 
Cicero the child is said to be conscious of itself and therefore fond of 
itself (De Finibus 3.16). 



conscious of his rationality; his constitution is no longer the 
same as it was when he was an infant; it is this new rational 
constitution and all that goes with it that he now feels to 
belong to him. He now knows his affinity to morality and to 

There is another way in which the promptings of nature are 
extended as a man becomes adult. He is concerned not only 
with his own survival, but also with that of his race; he has a 
love of his offspring and an instinct to care for them that can 
be seen in other an'imals also. But nature also gives him a de- 
sire to live with and help other men; simple forms of this 
desire for association can be seen in some animals. These 
feelings and instincts presuppose a recognition that these other 
people 'belong to us', are ours. Hierocles, an ordiodox Stoic of 
the second century ad (see also p. 170), drew a picture of a 
man at ,the centre of a mmiber of concentric circles. In the 
innermost he stands himself, with his body, and the satisfaction 
of his physical needs, in the next are his parents, brotiiers, wife 
and children, then more distant relations, then members of his 
deme (ward or village), of his city, of neighbouring cities, of 
his country, of the human race. Hierocles suggests that we 
should try to contract the circles, treating e.g. uncles like 
parents: the ultimate aim would be to treat all men as our 
brothers.^ This has been interpreted as a process of coming 
to feel that the members of each circle in turn belong to us. 
Elsewhere certainly he speaks of oikeiSsis to one's relatives and 
Cicero makes his champion of Stoicism recognise a natural 
oikeidsis to all mankind [De Finibus 3.63). But it has been 
objected that it is superfluous to suppose a progress through 
these circles to a final recognition of affinity with all men, since 
there are many passages which indicate a belief that man has 
a natural tendency to love and assist his fellows, from which 
his oikeidsis to them can be immediately derived. There is no 
difficulty in this, if there can be degrees of oikeidsis, if it can be 
felt that where A and B both belong to us, A belongs more than 
B does. Then recognition of some sort of affinity to any human 
being may arise without passing through the intennediate 
stages between him and one's family, but to pass through them 

»Stobaeus 4 pp. 671-3 Hense. 


may be a way to feeling him to belong to one as much as does 
one's brother.^ 

Here is one way in which the original self -regarding impulses 
can be modified, as the self is seen to be a part of larger 
families of men. But there is another way in which man's reason 
must shape his impulses. The Stoic knows that the world is 
ordered throughout by the will of God, and that all that hap- 
pens is part of a single plan. He knows this by faith rather than 
by argument, although the account which he gives of the physi- 
cal constitution of things necessitates it. That will be explained 
later (pp. 72f .) and the difficulties to which this belief gives rise 
will be examined. But for the moment it is enough to say that 
an omnipotent and provident deity controls all events. Now it is 
clear that whereas men aim at what is 'natural' for them, for ex- 
ample to be healthy and to stay afive, sometimes they fall sick 
and finally all men die. Their illnesses and their death, although 
apparently contrary to their own individual nature, must never- 
theless be part of the Whole scheme of things, that is must be 
in accord with the nature of the world as a whole. Man's 
reason enables him to recognise that there is this supreme plan, 
and he can willingly submit himself to it. He will prefer to 
be healthy and he will act to secure health, because that is the 
way he is made. But if he falls ill, he knows that this is 'natural' 
in the wider sense, to be accepted and even welcomed. His 

^Some scholars have maintained that the doctrine of oikeiSsis 
originated with Theophrastus. Certainly the word occurs once in a 
fragment (190 Wimmer; not a verbatim quotation), which says 
that the bee has an oikeiSsis to the oak-tree. But this does not imply 
any general principle, or that man recognised first himself, then 
external things and persons as 'belonging to him'. The process of 
growing self-awareness and extending recognition of one's relation 
to others seems to be a purely Stoic development. Theophrastus 
claimed that men were akin to one another and also to animals 
(Porphyry, On Abstinence 3.25), but this oikeiotis (his word) is no 
more than an objective physiological and psychological fact, not a 
feeling of relationship. Axius Didymus ascribes oikeiSsis in the Stoic 
sense to 'Aristotle and the Peripatetics', but in a passage full of Stoic 
terms and concepts: this came to him from Antiochus, who held 
that in the main Peripatetics and Stoics had the same views, both 
derived from Plato. I have no doubt that recent writers are correct 
in holding that oikeidsis first became important in the Stoa. 



reason enables him to transcend his own personal interest and 
see his own suffering as serving a wider purpose. Chrysippus 

So long as the coming sequence of events is not clear to me 
I always cling to those things that are better adapted for 
getting what is natural (i.e. natural for me as an individual), 
since God himself has made me a creature that picks sudi 
things. But if I knew that it was fated for me to fall ill now, 
I ^ould be bent on that. If the foot had brains, it would be 
bent on getting muddy (quoted by Epictetus, Discourses 

The sense of the last sentence is that the foot is part of a man, 
who wishes for his own good reasons to pass through some mud : 
a rational foot would co-operate, although it would not be to 
its own advantage to get muddy. Similarly man is part of the 
world and should co-operate to serve the world's purposes 
against his own advantage. But this is not against his own good. 
His good is achieved by rational decision, and reason demands 
that he should co-operate. Illness is not to his advantage, but 
he cannot be good unless he accepts his illness. (This does not 
imply that he should make no attempt to recover; a fated ill- 
ness is not necessarily a fatal one.) 

Illness is usually unexpected, but death can often be fore- 
seen. It was therefore consonant with the Stoic position if both 
Zeno and his successor Cleanthes, as 'is reported, and later 
Antipater hastened their own deaths: they saw that th«r time 
had come, and therefore did not fight for life. 

The Stoic view may be briefly summed up as follows. Virtue 
consists in the right approach to things and actions that are in 
themselves morally indifferent. Some of these have a value. 
Which must however not be exaggerated, others 'the opposite, an 
'unworth', which must equally not be exaggerated: such things 
are not good or bad. The right approach to what has value will 
be a positive one, namely to accept it and to act so as to get it; 
the reaction to what has unworth will be correspondingly nega- 
tive. But this is not an absolute rule. What may be called the 
primary interests of the individual sometimes conflict with those 
of the lai^r community constituted by the whole world: then 
he ought to disr^aid usual values and gladly accept what has 


'unworth' for him. Yet this unworth is unimportant, for it 
attaches to what is contrary only to the lower aspect of his 
naturej his higher, fully-developed nature is marlred by pos- 
session of reason, which must, if perfect, coincide with the reason 
that rules the world, and sometimes allots to him experiences 
unwelcome in themselves, but acceptable as part of the imiversed 

Cleanthes wrote some verses that well express one element of 
the attraction that could be exerted by his faith : 

Lead me, O Zeus, and lead me thou, O Fate, 
Unto that place where you have stationed me : 
I shall not flinch, but follow: and if become 
Wicked I should refuse, I still must follow. 

Seneca turned these four lines into five of more vigorous and 
epigrammatic Latin, beginning 

Lead me, father, ruler of high heaven. 

Where you have wished : obedience knows no stay, 

and ending 

Fate leads the willing, drags the recusant. 

The whole world is ruled by God and nothing in it happens 
without its being his will. So the good man will accept every- 
diing, knowing 'that it is not only imalterable, since Fate deter- 
mines all, but also the work of God, the perfect being. Seneca 
makes him our father, which suggests that he is benevolent. To 
repine or resist is then folly, for nothing will prevent his will's 
being done. One may go along with it in willing contentment, 
or be carried kicking and groaning, in wickedness and misery. 
This acceptance of all 'that happens will bring man peace of 
mind and protection against whatever he may suffer. 

GleanUies' Unes say nothing of the odier comfort that is 
offered to the Stoic, namely Uiat his happiness depends entirely 
upon himself, and is not at the mercy of other persons or the 
play of outside forces. What brings happiness is to have the right 
attitude, to choose the right actions, to aim correctly at the 
mark. This is in the man's own power: success, in the popular 



meaning of the word, is not. Unforeseen and incalculable causes 
may prevent his hitting the target, his actions may be obstructed, 
bis attitude disregarded; but so long as he does all he can and 
has nothing with whidi to reproach himsdf, all is well with 
him. Whether this is reconcilable with absolute determinism is 
a difficult question; but for a strong character it is a welcome 
challenge to be told that he must rely upon himself and that 
self-reliance is the road to happiness. 


Here it will be convenient to consider two objections that were 
raised in antiquity. A pupil of Zeno's, Aristo from Chios, argued 
that among morally indifferent things there are none that always 
have precedence. For example, whereas health often has pre- 
cedence over sickness, a wise man would prefer sickness if its 
result would be to avoid service under a tyrant and consequent 
death. He went on to allege that things are given precedence 
simply in accordance with circxmistances, and that none are in 
themselves such that they have a natural advanteige; they are 
like die letters of the alphabet, of which none is superior to any 
other, but which are chosen in accord with the word we wish to 
spell. Now, whereas it may be true that none of the things with 
precedence is always to be taken and accepted, it does not follow 
that none has any value in itself: it may occur that something 
Which has precedence and value cannot be taken 'simultaneously 
with another thing of even greater value; health and life are 
both things with precedence, but in the situation imagined by 
Aristo ihey are alternatives. His mistake stems from supposing 
that a thing that has value must always be acc^ted, whereas 
the world is not so constituted that we can always take at once 
everything valuable that is open to us. 

Ancient critics attacked Aristo in a different way, saying that 
his position robbed virtue of content; Cicero, probably following 
Antiochus (p. 120), repeatedly claims that virtue is abolished 
and that man has no way of ordering his life, unless value 
attaches to things that are in themselves morally indifferent. 
There is some exaggeration in this, since Aristo, like any Stoic, 
believed that it was virtuous not to yearn after or to fear things 
which were morally indifferent or to feel pain or joy at their pre- 
sence. But the absence of these faulty emotions is merely nega- 



tive : there are many occasions when a man must choose between 
positive courses of action; what can guide him to take one or 
the either, if their results have no value per se ? "You will live 
magnificently', Cicero reports Aristo as saying, 'you will do 
whatever seems good to you, without pain, desire, or fear'. Else- 
where he explains this to mean that the wise man will do what 
ever comes into his head [De Finibus 4.69, 4.43). It has been 
maintained ithat this is a misinterpretation : in reality die wise 
man will make his choice after considering all the circumstances 
in the light of correct reason. Perhaps that was Aristo's view, 
but if it was, it was impracticable. For one thing, life is too :^ort; 
for another, if nothing but virtue has value per se, the temporary 
value of other things must be due to their promoting virtue and 
negative value to their encouraging vice. But usually they will 
be quite irrelevant in these regards. No one avoids 'die mutila- 
tion of his fingers because a damaged hand will make him 
morally worse. 

Aristo, who had a picturesque style, won a circle of supporters. 
He greatly simplified Stoicism, so that it was hardly distinguish- 
able from the attitude of the Cynics. He rejected the study of 
logic as useless, that of physics as beyond human capacity. Like 
die Cynics he must have thoug'ht that virtue and vice were easily 
recognisable, rig'ht and wrong obvious. But unlike Crates he 
did not 'think it the philosopher's business to give detailed advice ; 
if a man knew that virtue was the only thing for whidh he 
should care, he needed no one to tell him how to behave towairds 
his wife or his father. His 'school' did not survive long, its doc- 
trinal weakness being too evident; yet some of his books were 
still read four centuries later by the young Marcus Aurel'ius 
{Letters of Fronto 4.13). 

The other objection 'had longer currency, and is still made. If 
it is good to live 'in agreement with nature', why is the attain- 
ment of so many 'natural' things quite immaterial to a good 
life and to happiness? They include all the "primary natural 
things', to use a phrase that Zeno adopted from his Platonist 
teacher Polemo. What exactly this covered may never have been 
defined, but the term included health, strength, powers of sen- 
sation, perhaps beauty and pihysical comfort. Aristotle had been 
unable to accept the complete irrelevance of the possession 
of such things; he felt it to be a paradox if a man whose 



circumstances were extremely disadvantageous could be called 
happy. Later Antiochus was to maintain that whereas virtue 
was adequate to make a man happy, his happiness would be 
increased by the possession of these primary natural things, and 
something similar seems to have been the position cS. Polemo. 
These views are those of comraion sense. 

In defence of the Stoics it may be said that the man who 
'lives in accord with nature', that is with the plan of the universe, 
does not do violence to his own nature. For that nature is 
rational and directs him sometimes to accept what is contrary 
to his primary, that is undisciplined, natural impulses. It is clear 
that it may not be possible to pursue all the instigations of nature 
simultaneously : one might, for example be able either to pro- 
tect one's diildren or to preserve one's health but not both. Simi- 
larly, on occasion to follow the purposes of imiveraal nature, 
with which man's developed nature is in accord, may exclude 
the simultaneous following of other aspects of his nature. Nor 
are these other aspects to be seen as opp)osed to universal nature. 
Man's nature is part of imiversal nature and he has been pro- 
vided with tendencies towards what is normally suitable for him 
to have. There is no reason Why life according to nature should 
not for the most part mean a life that brings what is 'jjrimarily 
natural'. But since these tendencies are, as it were, generalised 
and therefore not always adapted to particular circumstances, 
man should employ his reason to bring them under control, and 
to ^ape them so that his life is in harmony with nature as a 

But when this has been said, it remains true that it is strange 
if the possession of primary natural things is irrelevant to hap- 
piness. If they have value per se, that ought to affect a man's 
well-being. Is not X, who is virtuous, healthy, and blessed with 
admirable children, in some way better off than Y, who is vir- 
tuous, sick, and childless? Should we not be right to call him 
happier? Perhaps we should, but unfortunately the question at 
issue between the Stoics and their critics was not that, but 
whether he was more eudaimon; and 'happiness', conventionaUy 
used as a translation of eudaimonia, is (like eudaimonia itselQ 
an ambiguous word and none of its meanings a true rendering. 
Some philosophers make it mean 'balance of pleasure over pain' ; 
the ordinary man may use it of a feeling of satisfaction that can 


be transient. But eudaimonia, although something experienced 
by the man who is eudaimon, is (perhaps primarily) something 
objective, that others can recognise — having a good lot in life. 
'Call no man happy till he die', because one who is apparently 
enjoying a good lot may be doing so only temporarily: things 
may yet go wrong. Thus 'the Stoics did not attempt to describe 
evdaimonia as a subjective feeling, but identified it with such 
things as 'living a good life', 'being virtuous', or 'good calcula- 
tion in the choice of things Aat possess value'. Similarly in the 
Book of Definitions which originated in the Academy eudai- 
monia is not only 'a good compounded of all goods', but also 'a 
self-sufficient capacity for living well', or 'perfection in virtue'. 
For the Stoic, who confines the word 'good' to the morally good, 
it is consistent that a good life is a morally good life and 'the well- 
being indicated by eudaimonia is unaffected by w'hat is morally 
indifferent, however acceptable. 

To the other philosophers, who do not so restrict the word 
'good', eudaim^mia must be so affected. The basic matter in dis- 
pute is whether there is some category that includes not only 
virtue but also health, wealth and so on. Popular speech, calling 
all these things 'good', places 'them in a single category; they 
can be added like pence and pounds. To the Stoic they are 
diverse and can no more be added together than inches and 
pounds can be. Health and virtue both have value, but their values 
cannot be summed, just as both inches and pounds are measures, 
but a measure of length cannot be summed with a measure of 


Virtue could be described in many ways, for example as 'an 
even tenor of life that is always consistent', but it was essentially 
for the Stoics, as it had been for Socrates, a matter of knowledge 
or wisdom. In this intellectualist approach they followed not 
only the Cynics, but also the tradition of the Academy, which 
held that a man who fully knows what is right must also do it. 
The Cynics had insisted that knowledge could not be a firm 
possession without strength of mind, and that strength of mind 
was to be secured by practice and training: by holding to the 
truth under temptation a man made himself more capable of 
holding to it again. The Stoics did not adopt the practices of 



self -mortification to Which this had led Diogenes, but they re- 
cognised that habituation was necessary if virtue was to be ac- 
quired. Plato had believed that there were irrational forces in 
men which they must control before they could reach that sort 
of knowledge which would guarantee virtuous action. Thif the 
Stoics did not accept, hoilding that the road to virtue was that 
of training the reason to think correctly. When Zeno therefore 
wished to define the four cardinal virtues, established by the 
Platonic tradition, he expressed three of them in terms of the 
fourth, wisdom : justice was wisdom concerned with assignment 
(or distribution), sophrosyne (self-control, temperance) was wis- 
dom concerned with acquisition, bravery wisdom concerned 
with endiurance. How he defined wisdom itself is not recorded, 
but later it was caUed 'knowledge of what should and should 
not be done' or 'knowledge of what is good or bad or nei'ther".^ 

Zeno's pupil Aristo argued, with some plausibility, that it 
would be logical to believe in a single virtue, knowledge of good 
and evil, given different names according to the field in which 
it operated. It was as if we called sight 'albivision' when directed 
towards wihite objects, 'nigrivision' when directed towards black; 
we do in fact call the same coin by different names, a 'fare' or a 
'fee' or a 'd^osit', according to the pmpose for which it is used. 
Gleanthes said that if a psychS, that is to say the 'spirit', con- 
ceived as a physical 'breatfh'. Which gives a man life and reason, 
was taut enough (see p. 76), it had a strength which was self- 
mastery when steadfastness was concerned, bravery when en- 
durance, justice when deserts, temperance When acquisition and 
avoidance. By removing wisdom from the list of cardinal virtues 
he seems to have wished to avoid the awkwardness of Zeno's 
sdieme, Which is most naturally interpreted in Aristo's manner. 
In 'this revised scheme eadh virtue could be different by a modi- 
fication in the tension of the psyche : but that is no more than 
a guess at his meaning. 

Chrysippus attacked Aristo's position at length, preserving 

^These alternatives illustrate the fact that the word phronSsis, 
translated 'wisdom', covered both theoretical and practical wisdom, 
both knowledge of what is or exists and of what ought to be done. 
Its limitation to practical wisdom was an Aristotelian move, and 
even he recognised that practical wisdom was not independent of 
theoretical, which he called sophia. 



the traditional cardinal virtues and maintaining ihat they could 
be distinguished by their own characteristics and not merely by 
the fields in which they operated. Galen devoted many pages to 
denouncing his arguments as bad ones, without revealing what 
they were. But he is known to have asserted that each virtue was 
a different state of the 'breath' which constituted the psyche. 
Nor was he content to distinguish four virtues : there were minor 
virtues within each of the cardinal virtues, a whole swarm of 
them, as Plutarch complained. 

Yet, although the virtues were different, they implied one 
another, and could not exist separately. All depended on the 
knowledge of what was good and bad, and a man who had that 
knowledge must possess all the virtues. Ghrysippus even said 
that every virtuous action involved every virtue, an opinion 
diat it would be hard to maintain: perhaps it is to be seen as a 
paradoxical sharpening of the truth that some virtuous actions 
involve all four cardinal virtues. 

Ghrysippus enjoyed paradox. Sometimes it was a question of 
pushing principles to what seemed a logical extreme. Thus he 
probably said that if any wise man anywhere stretched out his 
finger wisely, the action was useful to all wise men everywhere. 
This depends on three principles: all wise men are friends to one 
another; friends have all things in common, what be'longs to 
one belongs to all; any wise action is useful to the man who per- 
forms it. But many of the paradoxes about the wise, for which 
the Stoics became notorious, were dependent on the use of a 
word in an unusual sense. They made statements startlingly 
false, if taken to be in ordinary language, but which could be 
true with another interpretation. Thus the wise man is a rich 
man, not in money but in what is truly valuable, the virtues; he 
is beautiful, not with physical beauty but with that of the in- 
tellect; he is a free man, even if a slave, because he is master of 
his own thoughts. He alone is a king: for by 'king' is meant an 
ideal ruler, who must know what is good and evil. He alone is a 
prophet, a poet, an orator, a general, for he alone knows how to 
follow these professions as they should be followed to achieve 
acceptable results. The other side of the medal is that every man 
who is not wise is a slave, to his feju^s and cupidities; a madman, 
for his beliefs are hallucinations; a wretched man, for he has no 
true cause for joy. Nothing is useful for him, nodiing belongs 



to him, nothing suits him; for nothing is useful but virtue, which 
he lacks, nolhing belongs unless it cannot be taken away, noth- 
ing that is not virtue is a suitable possession. Mjiny of these 
paradoxes were taken over from 'the Cynics, whose practice in 
this followed a Socratic tradition. 

It might be supposed that the perfectly moral man, being 
{>erfecitly wise, would never aim at things that in the event he 
would not succeed in getting or achieving. He would know in 
advance when the demands of his own nature must be subordi- 
nated because they conflicted with the universal plan. He would 
know when he was fated to fall ill. If he was a general or a states- 
man he would know what he could undertake with success and 
what he could not. There are texts which suggest such omnis- 
cience. But it was hardly credible that anyone could attain it, 
however much experience and the art of prophecy might enable 
him to foresee coming events. Accordingly Seneca declares, as 
if it were orthodox doctrine, that "the wise man comes to every- 
thing with the proviso "if nothing happens to prevent it"; there- 
fore we say that he succeeds in everything and nothing happens 
contrary to his expectation, because he presupposes that some- 
thing can intervene to prevent his design' {On Services Ren- 
dered, 4.34; cf. Stobaeus 2 p. 115 H.). But there is nothing to 
show how soon it became orthodox, nor how soon it was appre- 
ciated that although no craft, trade, or profession could be 
correctly carried on except by a wise man, a wise man would not 
for example be able to play a wind-instrument without learning 
its technique, and that a wise man could not be expected to 
learn the techniques of all the arts. 

If 'good' is an absolute term, applicable only to moral perfec- 
tion, if diere are no grades of goodness, good men will be very 
few and far between. Zeno and Cleanthes may have thought 
goodness a practicable goal; for Chrysippus it had effectively 
become an unattainable ideal. It became orthodox to recognise 
that all human beings are, and inevitably remain, bad and un- 
happy. There was no intemiediate state between goodness and 
badness. Moreover just as 'good' was an absolute, so was 'bad'; 
there were no grades of badness. This was not a necessary con- 
sequence : although it is true that there cannot be grades of per- 
fection — it is an abuse of language to say that one thing is more 
perfect than another — it does not fallow that there are no grades 


of imperfection. Nevertheless the Stoics maintained that there 
were no grades of badness: a man, said Ohrysippus, who is a 
cubit below the surface drowns as much as one who is 500 fath- 
oms down. The purpose of this may have been to discourage a 
man from resting too easily content, from saying to himself 'I'm 
not so bad' and giving up further effort towards goodness. Yet 
critics found it absurd that die famous Aiistides who became 
known as 'the Just', should have been as bad and as miserable as 
the cruel tyrant Phalaris. And although the Stoics defended tiie 
paradox, it may be doubted whether they took it very seriously. 
Perhaps a more effective encouragement to effort was provided 
by the figure of the man 'making an advance' {prokopton), still 
involved in the waters of wickedness, but making his way to- 
wards the surface. Critics claimed that he was inconsistent with 
the paradox, and to common sense he is. 

Appropriate actions 

It must frequently happen — perhapw the Stoics thought it was 
always true — that reason will show that in a particular set of 
circumstances a certain course of action is appropriate. Such 
an appropriate action Zeno called kathekon, not a new word, 
but one which became a technical term in his school. It sugges- 
ted to him the phrase kata Unas hekei, which may be translated 
'it falls to certain persons'. A kathekon is not normally a univer- 
sal imperative, although later Stoics, at least, recognised kathe- 
konta that admitted no exceptions, arguing that it was always 
appropriate to act virtuously; this was of no practical impor- 
tance, since men as they are, not being perfectly good, could not 
as a matter of fact do anything virtuously. Very many acts are, 
however, usually appropriate, for example to take care of one's 
health, or to associate with one's friends. Others are appropriate 
only in exceptional circumstances, for example to abandon one's 
property or to commit suicide. But even the act that is usually 
appropriate still 'falls to certain persons' only; there will be 
others, however few, for whom it is not appropriate. Whereas 
to act virtuously is always morally good, and to act faultily 
always bad, to act appropriately is not in itself either good or 
bad in the sense of being morally good or bad. It may be appro- 
priate to return a loan, but if the debtor pays in order to estab- 
lish his credit so that he may obtain a further loan, with which 



he will abscond, the return will not be a morally good action. If 
on the other hand he pays with full understanding of why it is 
right to do so, it is a 'just' and therefore a good action. Accor- 
dingly these appropriate actions are called 'intermediate', lihat 
is to say they are intermediate between good and bad. Every- 
thing depends upon the mental state of the man who performs 
them. To return a deposit, as Cicero puts it, is appropriate, to 
do so justly is a correct action. To do so unjustly, he might have 
added, is a fault. What is externally the same action is ' a correct 
action' {katorthomd) or an 'absolutely appropriate action' if per- 
formed by a wise man, an appropriate action if performed by 
anyone else. 

It may be well to enter a caveat here against a mistake which 
was once common and is still occasionally repeated, that of 
supposing correct action to be concerned wilih good things and 
appropriate action with morally indifferent ones. Misled by a 
polemical passage in Cicero, probably due to Antiochus (De 
Finibus 4.56), Zeller imagined that Zeno began with correct and 
incorrect actions aiming respectively at what was good and what 
was bad, and then 'relaxing his ethical strictness', bridged the 
gap by introducing 'precedence' among 'indifferent' things and 
with it the notion of appropriate actions which aimed at what 
had this inferior sort of value. This makes nonsense of the 
system. The aim of a thief is not to be wicked but to acquire 
some money; on the other hand most correct actions must aim 
at producing some result other than morality and their correct- 
ness involves the value of the result. The existence of things with 
precedence, having their value, to provide an aim is a pre-re- 
quisite, whether the action is the virtuous action of the wise man, 
or the appropriate action of the ordinary man. This value is 
value for the leading of a natural life. 'What is clearer', says 
Cicero, 'than that if there was no choosing of the things that 
accord with nature in preference to those that are against it, all 
practical wisdom (prudentia) would be at an end?' 'What start- 
ing point for appropriate action or material for virtue can I 
take', asked Chrysippus, 'if I let go of nature and the natural?' 

An appropriate action was defined as one Which 'when done 
can be reasonably defended'. It was not necessary that the per- 
son who performed it should be able to defend it, as appears 
from the fact that animals and even plants could act appropri- 


ately. Hence appropriate actions are sometimes associated with 
precepts, by which men of a higher moral standard indicate to 
their inferiors how they should act. But it is to be noticed that 
the word 'reasonably" is not necessarily synonymous with 'cor- 
rectly'. No man is perfectly wise, yet if life is not to be a random 
affair, there must be rules, certain actions must be recognised 
as those to be done. It is possible then that a 'reasonable' defence 
will normally defend what a wise man would defend, but since 
none but he is infallible, there must remain a chance that it is 
mistaken. The word was understood in this sense by the scq>tic 
Arcesilaus, who to define a correct action impishly borrowed 
the Stoic definition of an appropriate action. Since on his prin- 
ciples one coidd never be sure that any action was correct, but 
only think it probably correct, he must have taken 'reasonably' 
in the weak sense of 'correctly so far as can be seen'. Yet it is 
possible that by the Stoics it was intended to have the strong 
sense 'by correct reason'. The fact that a man is not perfectly 
wise does not mean that all the operations of his reason are in- 
correct. He may not only perform the majority of them correctly 
but also be aware that they are correct. It is only the sceptic 
who is never sure that he is right. For the Stoic the correct rea- 
sons for defending an action may normally be available, per- 
haps always available to someone even if not to the man who 
acts. Clearly the individual may not know why what he does is 
appropriate for him; there may be differing opinions in the 
world at large, even among philosophers, about what he ought 
to do; yet there is somediing that is appropriate, and that will 
be defined by correct reason. 

We have seen 'that there is no intermediate state between 
goodness and badness : all imperfect men are bad men. It was 
sometimes said that all actions of bad men are faulty, and from 
this it follows that even when they do what is appropriate, they 
commit a 'fault'. But there was another way of looking at things, 
by which the word fault' was used in a narrower, but more 
ordinary, sense of actions which are always such that correct 
reason will disapprove them, to feel mental pain, to act foolishly, 
to be frightened, to murder, to steal. Then between these and 
the actions that are always correct, can be placed those that are 
appropriate or inappropriate according to circimistances, but 
not in tfiemselves morally good or bad. The appropriate are 



exemplified by such things as honouring one's parents, associa- 
ting with friends, getting married, going for a walk (Diogenes 
Laertius 7. 108-9) j some of these will almost always be the right 
thing to do, others only occasionally. One could draw up a 
similar list of inappropriate acts. It is important that it is indi- 
vidual actions of this kind that are appropriate; when it is said 
for example ^titiat marriage is appropriate, that does not mean 
that it is appropriate for all men in all circumstances, but that 
it will be appropriate for njost individual men. 

The appropriate action sihould always be preferred, and so 
the ordinary man, who has not attained wisdom, can still at- 
tempt to choose the actions that are appropriate to himself. If 
as time goes on he makes fewer and fewer mistakes, he is said 
to be 'making progress' (he is prokoptdn), that is he is progres- 
sing towards emerging from his folly. Finsdly he may be imag- 
ined as always making the right choice; now the only difference 
between him and the wise man is that the reasoning that leads 
him is not perfect, it cannot be relied on always to reach the 
right conclusion. Chrysippus drew the conclusion that, not being 
wise, the man who had taken all but the last step on the road of 
progress must still be a fool, a bad man, and an unhappy man. 
His appropriate actions must still be faulty in that they are not 
dictated by perfect reason. To ancient critics this position, logi- 
cal though it was on the premise that good and bad, wise and 
foolish, are absolute terms that do not admit of degrees, seemed 
absurdly paradoxical, as was also the further claim that the 
change from folly to wisdom would be so infinitesimal that it 
would not be noticed at the instant it took place. 

There is littie evidence that later Stoics, from the time of 
Panaetius onwards, paid attention to the extreme position that 
an appropriate action was still a faulty action if performed by 
a man who was not wise. Rather they seem to have supposed 
that the individual action performed by an ordinary man was 
neither good nor bad, whereas strictly speaking what was 
morally indifferent was the content of the action, not the mental 
processes that went with it. 


Among actions occasionally appropriate was suicide. The justi- 
fication for living or for dying was to be found not in the 


happiness or misery arising from one's moral state but in the 
presence of advantages, that is of what accords with man's nat- 
ure in the narrow sense of that word (see p. 32 above). 'A man', 
says Cicero's Stoic {De Finibus 3.60), 'in whom there predomi- 
nates what accords with nature, has the duty of remaining in life, 
one in whom what is contrary to nature predominates or seems 
about to predominate has the duty of departing from life : from 
this it is clear that it is sometimes the duty of a wise man to de- 
part from life, although he is happy, and of the foolisih man to 
remain in life, although he is wretched'. How man is to strike 
the balance between factors for living or dying is not obvious, 
since it cannot be done by the mere enumeration of advantages 
and disadvantages; they must be assigned values and weighed 
against one another. But a wise man, it may be supposed, will be 
capable of this calculation; he will know when the disa;bilities 
of disease or old age grow to outweigh such natural advantages, 
e,g. the possession of sight or of diildren, as he may still enjoy. 
It is also clear, I think, that 'the man who is not wise will some- 
times miscalculate, committing suicide when to go on living 
would be appropriate, and maintaining life when it would be 
appropriate to die. But the unwise do not always miscalculate 
or always fail to perform appropriate actions; and so they will 
sometimes kill themselves When they should, even althoug'h they 
may more often cling to life when they should not. The fact 
that they sometimes fail to recognise what is appropriate is no 
reason for supposing that suicide is never appropriate for them.^ 

*In his interesting chapter on suicide J. M. Rist, Stoic Philosophy 
233if., rather hesitantly suggests that Chrysippus believed suicide to 
be inappropriate for an unwise man, vinless perhaps he received a 
divine sign. He thinks that this was also the view of Zeno, about 
whom there was a story that one day he tripped and broke his toe, 
struck the ground and exclaimed, from an unidentified tragedian's 
Mobe, '1 am coming; why do you call me?' and killed himself. The 
anecdote is probably worthless, and even if it is true, the breaking 
of the toe may have been the last straw in the sum of disabilities 
rather than a divine sign. Rist quotes a phrase of Chrysippus from a 
passage preserved by Plutarch Moralia 1039 D, 'and it is appropriate 
for bad men to remain alive'. But this is in a sentence which is 
Plutarch's summary, and it is imnecessary to suppose Chrysippus 
to have meant that it was always appropriate; the context suggests 
his point to have been that wickedness is no reason for suicide. 



If a wise man suffering from a painful tenninal disease would 
be right to kill himself, it would seem absurd that a sufferer 
who had not attained perfect wisdom should be wrong to do 

According to some Stoics a man could also appropriately kill 
himself for the sake of his country or his friends (Diogenes 
Laertius 7.130). Here we get away from the idea that suicide is 
dep)endent on one's own balance of natural advantage. It will 
still be concerned with such advantages, but now with obtaining 
them or preserving them for other people. Another text (Cramer, 
Paris Anecdota 4.403) says that the Stoics recognised five reasons 
for leaving life's banquet, corresponding to five reasons for 
breaking up a real party: a great advantage, as when the oracle 
commanded a man to kill himself for his country, the irruption 
of autocrats who try to force men to shameful actions, protract- 
ed disease, poverty, and madness. Here there is to be seen a third 
type of reasonable cause for suicide, that of avoiding the com- 
mission of immoral acts. This would seem contrary to the posi- 
tion of Chrysippus, whom Plutarch represents as thinking that 
the standard for living or suicide was not to be foimd in things 
good or bad but in the 'intermediate' natural advantages 
[Moralia 1042 D). Elsewhere he says that the Stoics maintained 
that it would have been appropriate for Heraclitus and Phere- 
cydes to lose their virtue and wisdom, 'if they had thereby been 
able to escape their dropsy and consumption by lice {Moralia 
1064 A). Whether this was the opinion of Chrysippus or of some 
follower, it clearly drives to an extreme the principle that one's 
morality or immorality should have no weight in the decision 
whether to live or die. 

Tlie topic of suicide constantly recurs among the Roman 
Stoics. Seneca glorifies it as die road to freedom. It has been 
said that he was in love with death. Certainly fascinated by it, 
he exults in the thought that it is not hard to find; there is 
always a way open. 'The eternal law has done nothing better 
than its gift to us of one entry to life, and many ways out . . . 
there is one thing in life of which we need not complain : it de- 
tains no one' {Letters 70.14). 'In any kind of slavery we shall 
show that there is a way to freedom. If through its own faults 
the mind is sick and wretched, a man may end his miseries and 
himself. . . . Wherever you look there is an end to your ills. Do 


you see that precipice? Down there is the way to freedom. Do 
you see that sea, that river, that well? Freedom sits there below. 
Do you see that little withered, barren tree? Freedom hangs 
from its branches. Do you see your throat, your gullet, your 
heart? They are ways of escape from servitude' {On Anger 
3.15). The context of this latter passage is the cruelties of tyran- 
nical masters, but Seneca thinks of escaping not only these but 
also one's own imperfections. That is unusual. Elsewhere he 
mentions as justification for suicide mainly what is morally in- 
different, lack of necessities, the infirmity of age, incurable 
disease, the threat of torture. For all his glorification of death 
and his praise of the freedom it brings, not a freedom to do any- 
thing but an absence of the constraints of Ufe, at other times 
his belief that it is not to be feared suggests that it should be 
calmly awaited. 'A man is on his way to kill you. Wait for him. 
Why should you anticipate him ? Why undertake to execute an- 
other man's cruelty? Do you envy your hangmen his task or 
would you spare him from it?' (Letters 70.8). 

Epictetus often uses phrases like 'The door stands open'. 
Sometimes it is not clear whether he means 'You can kill your- 
self or 'A natural death will supervene', but there are several 
passages (e.g. Discourses II. 1.19) where suicide is clearly in- 
tended. But his thought seems to be that certain death may 
properly be hastened, rather than that one ■Should be ready to 
find death preferable to life. It is a man's duty to bear the pains 
that God sends him: only if deprived of life's necessities does 
he know that God is sounding the recall. He imagined himself 
approached by young pupils saying 'Epictetus, we can no longer 
endure being prisoners along with our wretched body, feeding 
it and giving it drink and putting it to sleep and cleaning it, and 
then through it associating with these men here and those men 
there. Are not these things indifferent and no concern of ours? 
Is not death no evil ? Are we not God's kinsmen and have we not 
come thence? Let us depart to the place whence we have come, 
let us be freed at last from these fetters that hang heavy upon 
us.' And he would reply, 'Men, wait for God. When he gives 
the signal and relieves you of this service then depart to Him; 
but for the present endure to inhabit this place where he has 
stationed you'. [Discourses 1.9. 12-16.) 

Marcus Aurelius reflected that with advancing years the 



mind's understanding might decay; the man may still breathe 
and feed, have perception and appetite, but no longer see accur- 
ately where his duty lies nor judge clearly whether the time 
has come to usher himself out of life (3. 1). He does not here state 
explicitly what sihould be the reasons for an ageing man's suicide. 
Elsewhere he once quotes Epictetus' simile according to which 
one would leave a room if it became too full of smoke (5.29), and 
Epictetus had, it seems, thought primarily of bodily pains and 
handicaps. But in several places he shows the feeling that the 
only life that is worth living is a moral life. By that he does not 
mean the life of the ideal Stoic sage, a dream in which he has 
no interest, but one informed by kindliness and devoid of pas- 
sions. If you cannot escape from your vices, you should die, per- 
forming thereby one good action at least (9.2; 10.8. 1—2). 'Who 
prevents you from being good and simple ? Just resolve to live 
no longer if you are not such. Reason does not demand that you 
should live if you lack these qualities' (10.32). The uppermost 
motive in such reflections may be to esdiort himself to effort, but 
behind them lies the thoug'ht that a confirmed sinner would 
rightly consider himself imfit to live. In another passage he 
thinks of circumstances where something stroi^;er than he pre- 
vents him from achieving a sound purpose; then should life not 
be worth living if the purpose is not achieved, one should leave 
it cheerfully and with kindly feelings towards the obstacle that 
intervened (8.47). Something of this sort may have been in his 
mind when he wrote to the Senate after the discovery ctf Cassius' 
conspiracy that he wished none of the accomplices to be executed 
and that if he could not secure this he would hasten his own 
death (Dio Cassius 71.30). Here is a third reason for suicide, and 
one no more orthodox than that of failure to cast off vice. It 
was basic to Stoicism that intention was everything and achieve- 
ment nothing. Marcus could not escape the normal human feel- 
ing that unless he could execute his purpose he would be a 

The goal of life 

By Zeno's time a philosopher might expect to be asked what he 
held to be the 'end' {telos) of life. This word combined the mean- 
ings of 'goal' and of 'perfection'. The 'end' is at once that to- 
wards which all one's efforts should be directed and also the 


supreme good. It was assumed ^at a man's activities should be 
so integrated and subordinated to a single end : Aristotle takes 
it for granted at Nicomachean Ethics 1095a 15ff.; the 'demo- 
cratic' man, whom Plato ridicules in the Republic, with his 
shifting interests, each allowed its turn, had no support among 

During the first two centuries of the Stoic school successive 
leaders used different formulas to express the end of life. It is 
disputed whether these Changes reflected alterations of doctrine 
or attempts to define one and the same ideal more accurately. 
The ideal was that of 'living consistently' or of 'living consis- 
tently with nature'; each phrase is often said to be the Stoic 
description of the goal. Did the various philosophers find sub- 
stantially different meanings in their formulas or, to use the 
language of Arius Didymus, was their concern merely to 'give 
them further articulation' (Stobaeus 2.7.6a)? I believe the latter 
alternative to be nearer the truth. 

The problem resolves itself into asking what interpretation 
was put on the phrase 'consistently with nature'. Is the right 
life one that accords with what is specifically human nature or 
one that falls in with the purposes of the universe? Or can the 
two aims be combined? If so, how? Did the different heads of 
the school differ in their answers to these questions ? 

It is not certain that the wording 'to live consistently with 
nature' originated with Zeno. Diogenes Laertiiis reports that in 
his book On Man's Nature he said (and was the first to say) that 
the end was 'to live consistently with nature' (7.87). This defini- 
tion is ascribed to him by several other authors. But Arius 
Didymus has a different story: 

Zeno expressed the end as follows : 'to live consistently', that 
is to live by one harmonious plan {logos), as ithose who live in 
conflict are unhappy. His successors gave this further articu- 
lation and produced the phrase 'to live consistently with 
nature'; they took it that Zeno's expression was an incomplete 
statement. Cleanthes, who took over the school from him, was 
the first to add 'with nature' — Chrysippus, wishing to make 
the definition clearer, expressed it in this way, 'to live accord- 
ing to experience of what happens by nature.' 



It is hard to put this aside; many guess that Chrysippus in- 
terpreted Zeno's language in the book On Man's Nature to show 
that he would have been ready to accept the later fonnida, 
which added the words 'with nature', and they may be right. 
But even so, is it justifiable to look for a difference of substance 
as well as of language ? Posidonius was later to say that Chrysip- 
pus' definition was equivalent to 'living consistently' (Galen, On 
the Views of Hippocrates and Plato p. 450 M); in other words 
he saw no essential difference between him and Zeno. In this 
I believe him to have been correct. To 'live consistently' is an 
inadequate phrase to express Zeno's ideal of how to live. One 
man might direct the whole of his activities consistently towards 
making money or another towards writing the longest epic poem 
the world had known: it would be consistent for the latter to 
neglect his parents, if he could do so safely, and to provide for 
his needs by some single undetectable fraud rather than pro- 
tracted honest labour. Zeno must have meant the single plan 
by which life should be lived to be a plan formed by correct 
reason, and this will be one that is natural, in the sense that it 
accords both with man's nature and with universal nature. No 
one in antiquity suggested that there was any real difference 
between Zeno and Chrysippus in their views of the 'end' : that 
has been left to modern historians, who welcome conflicts as 
grist to their mffls. 

Gleanthes is said to have interpreted 'living consistentiy with 
nature' to mean 'consistently with universal nature', whereas 
Chrysippus understood 'both imiversal nature and in particular 
human nature' (Diogenes Laertius 7.89). It may be doubted 
whether there was any real difference in theory. The distinction 
between human and universal nature can be reconciled. When 
what normally accords with human nature is in conflict with the 
dispositions of universal nature, a rational man sees that the 
latter have precedence, and so it is then natural for him, as the 
rational being that man properly is, to follow imiversal nature, 
abandoning his normal preferences. On the other hand, these 
normal human preferences are usually acceptable to reason, 
and in accord with universal nature. Hence an opposition be- 
tween human nature and universal nature is illusory. Chrysippus 
cannot have intended to tamper with the ideal of life in accord 
with universal nature; he was adding that such a life was also 



consistent with human nature. Nor did he intend his formula, 
'by experience of what happens by nature', to differ from the 
traditional 'consistently widi nature'. He meant that consis- 
tency with nature could be obtained only through observation 
of nature's ways. 

Chrysippus' successors invented new formulas which had a 
family likeness. The passage of Arius continues as follows: 

Diogenes (of Babylon): 'to calculate well in the selection of 
things that accord with nature and in their non-selection'; 
Archedemus: 'to live performing all actions appropriate to 
one'; Antipater: 'to live selecting what is in accord with 
nature and not selecting what is against nature', and he often 
put it like this too, 'to do everything that lies within oneself, 
perpetually and infallibly, to get what by nature takes the 

Another source ascribes to Archedemus the formula 'to live 
selecting the greatest and most important things that accord 
with nature, being unable to overlook them'. This, which is 
in no way inconsistent with what is ascribed to him by Arius, 
brings him into line with Antipater, who was probably his 

These formulas were not intended to replace that of 'living 
consistently with nature' but to make it more precise. They in- 
sist that consistency with nature does not mean having what is 
natural, but wanting it. Diogenes by introducing the mention 
of selection emphasised the means through -which, the harmony 
with nature was to be achieved, a continued correct solving of 
the problems offered by life. Although Ghrysippus had not in- 
cluded selection in his definition, he was well aware of its im- 
portance.^ None of the formulas are necessarily to be under- 
stood to restrict the 'things that accord with nature' to what 
accords with man's nature in a narrow sense. As has previously 
been emphasised, man's rationality makes him see as natural 

*The word proigoumenon, translated 'what takes the lead', may 
mean either 'what is important' or 'what initiates, gives a lead'. 
Antipater may have thought that what is natural beckons a man 
on, as it were. 

*Epictetus, Discourses 2.6.9, Cicero, De Finibus 3.31. 



the promotion of the interests of his fellow-men and the accep- 
tance of 'misfortunes' that Providence may impose on him in 
the execution of its wider purposes. This is essential to the Stoic 
philosophy, and it seems most improbable that it was overlooked 
by these members of the school. 

Nevertheless there is some evidence which has been taken to 
show that they did overlook it. Plutarch states the Stoic goal of 
life to be 'the well-calculated selection and acceptance of the 
primary natural things and to do all thart lies with oneself to get 
the primary natural things' {Morcdia 1071 A). Hie 'primary 
natural things', although nowhere enumerated, must be a re- 
stricted class, not identical with What is seen as natural by de- 
veloped reason. One might suspect that the word 'primary" had 
been unfairly introduced for polemical purposes by Cameades, 
and that Plutarch was following him; Cameades had main- 
tained that the goal of life must be one of nine things; it could 
be either to aim at pleasure or absence of pain or the primary 
natural things, or to secure one of these objectives, or to secure 
one of these objectives plus what is noble and fine. But Posi- 
donius wrote of some unnamed Stoics that they 'reduce living 
consistently to doing all that is pKJssible for the sake of the pri- 
mary natural things'; he added that the Ghrysippean formula 
of 'living by experience of what happens by nature' was a cor- 
rect interpretation of 'living consistently', a phrase that had 
been 'shabbily' taken to mean getting what is morally indiffer- 
ent'. Yet he was here engaged in polemic and perhaps therefore 
in misrepresentation:^ siurely no Stoic can have supposed the 
summum bonum to be the getting of what was morally indiffer- 
ent. Posidonius may have intended not to elucidate Antipater's 
meaning, but to show what interpretation could be put on his 
formula. If that is so, to restrict chdice to the primary natural 
things was a misrepresentation. 

Diogenes then did not make any fundamental change by 
calling the end or supreme good well-calculated choice and re- 
jection of what ds natural. It will not always be possible to have 
everything that is natural; for example health, wealth, and 

*It is noteworthy that he said in this context that working for the 
sake of the primary natural things was on a par with working for 
pleasure or for absence of disturbance, i.e. he was operating with the 
Carneadean division of goals in life. 



falling in with God's purposes are all natural, but one may have 
to choose between healtfi and wealth, or between health and 
willing acceptance of a sickness that is part of the divine plan. 
In the latter case it is impossible to be healthy, but an imperfect 
man might 'choose' health in the sense that he would wish to 
keep his health instead of rationally accepting his illness. But 
this new formula was open to an objection: a well-calculated 
choice must be made with some end in view. Gameades seems 
to have argued that the end towards which one's actions are 
directed must be one's end in life; so the well-calculated choice 
must be choice of what serves a well-calculated choice and so 
on ad infinitum. Antipater's modifications appear to be designed 
to meet this criticism. The formiila 'to live selecting what is in 
accord with nature and not selecting what is against nature' 
avoids the questions 'With what aim do you select some natural 
things and reject others? Why is one selection well-calculated?' 
The new formula does not invite these questions, for it may 
seem self-evident that the natural should be chosen and the un- 
natural rejected. 'Natural' must now be understood to mean 
what accords with universal nature, although this will of course 
very frequently also be what accords with restricted human 

Antipater's second formula is intended to meet another ob- 
jection raised by Carneades. Even if selection of the natural is 
virtuous and to be included in the supreme good, the natural 
cannot be deprived of value, and its possession ought to be part 
of that good, part of one's aim. Antipater introduced 'getting of 
the natural' into his formula, but held to the orthodox belief 
that it farmed no part of the supreme good. He made use of an 
analogy with an archer, who tries to hit a target, but Whose aim 
is to be a good archer. He will achieve that aim if he always dis- 
charges his arrow correctly, and his achievement is not lessened 
if something outside his control causes it to miss the target; 
one might illustrate Antipater's meaning by instancing the 
flight of a bird across the trajectory or the collapse of the 
target. This formula, then, which by including the natural 

'Some writers would not accept this, believing that the formula 
is equivalent to that of Diogenes, and must have been used by 
Antipater before he tried to meet Carneades' criticism. 



objectives recognises that they are essential for moral action, 
also establishes their relation to it; not their acquisition, but the 
attempt to acquire them constitutes morality. 

But the goal of selecting 'what accords with nature' is an un- 
inspiring one, if it is considered what these things are. They are 
all morally indifferent things, e.g. health, wealth, or comfort. 
When reason extends a man's conception of nature so that he 
finds it natural to care for others beside himself, it is their 
health, wealth and comfort that he will choose. Even when his 
reason falls in with the universal reason that rules the world, he 
will still be selecting what is morally indifferent, e.g. sickness, 
exile, and death. But such acceptance of what conflicts with 
what is usually natural must be a rare event, and so the formulas 
we have been discussing will be easily understood as identify- 
ing 'what accords with nature' with 'what has precedence'.* 
Among these a large place is taken by the 'primary natural 
things', so that Posidonius, even though inaccurate, may have 
been loosely speaking justified in complaining that these Stoics 
reduced their goal to trying to get such diings, and that although 
this avoided the criticisms of the Sophists (by Which he seems 
to have meant the Academics), it was a shabby interpretation 
of 'living consistently with nature'. Essentially the supreme good 
is harmony with universal nature, and the attempt to get what 
is in the narrow sense natural for man is merely incidental to 
that aim.^ 

Panaetius' formula, 'to live according to the starting-points 
given us by nature' (p. 126), was a novelty in its wording rather 
than its content. Cicero seems to be following him when he 
writes 'we Should act so as not to strive in any way against 
universal nature but while keeping to that follow our own 
nature' (On Duties 1.110). That is exactly the doctrine we have 
found in Chrysippus. It is consistent With Panaetius' formula, 
because reason is one of man's starting-points, in fact the one 
that distinguishes him from the beasts (cf. Cicero, On Duties 
1.11-14), and reason must show the desirability of living in 
harmony with universal nature. The formula's effect is not to 

iSee p. 29. 

'For Posidonius' own explanation of 'living consistently with 
nature' see p. 137. 



change the goal, but to insist upon the fact that it is one to- 
wards which man's own nature directs him. 

It has been argued in the preceding pages that to live con- 
sistently with natiu-e was an aim accepted by all Stoics, that 
this nature was universal nature, with which man's fully-devel- 
oped nature must always coincide, and which in great part 
allowed him to have what suited his own individual nature. 
But this I'ife consistent with nature is also internally self-con- 
sistent, and there are passages in which this is stressed. Thus 
Zeno is said to have identified 'living consistently' with 'living 
according to a single harmonious plan', and happiness, which 
was another way of referring to the goal, was described by him, 
Cleanthes, and Chrysippus as 'an easy flow of life', that is to 
say the current of life was to be regular and undisturbed. 
Panaetius, as reported by Cicero, remarked that whereas other 
animals have very limited powers of memory and foresig'ht, 
man can understand cause and effect and by the use of analogy 
see the whole course of his life and prepare for it. Elsewhere 
he spoke of the importance of uniformity (aequabilitas) in the 
whole of one's life, to be attained only by keeping within one's 
own capacities (Cicero, On Duties 1.111). This consistency and 
absence of conflict is an essential part of happiness, but only to 
be had through accord with the divine reason that rules all the 

The passions 

It is sometimes said that the Stoics wished to eradicate the emo- 
tions; and this, it is argued, is as undesirable as it is impracti- 
cable, for without emotion man would lose the mainspring of 

lis otent a nos coeiu-s le principal ressort j 

lis font cesser de vivre avant que Ton soit mort^ 

(De la Fontaine, Fables 12.20). 

This criticism is at best a half-truth. What the Stoics wished to 
abolish was not emotion but 'passion' (pathos) or, as Cicero 
translated the word, 'mental disturbance'. They had no word 

*They take the mainspring from our heart; they make us stop 
living before we are dead. 



that corresponds to the English •emotion'. This may mean that 
they underestimated emotion's importance; it does not imply 
that they wanted to get rid of it. It is, however, true that they 
did not adequately recogfnise the autonomous origin of emo- 
tions, but tried too much to treat them as the outcome of intel- 
lectual forces. 

The love of parents for children is an emotion. It was re- 
garded by the Stoics as natural and proper. They pointed out 
that it was to be seen in brute animals, where there is no 
question of its arising from calculation. Some animals have a 
social instinct : in men this is developed so tiiat they have feel- 
ings of friendship towards their fellows. These too are emo- 
tions, and result in altruistic actions. A particular form is love, 
defined as 'a design to make friends, due to visible beauty*. This 
is an intellectualist description, but we should call what is de- 
scribed an emotion. All these psychological states are perfectly 
acceptable. Marcus Aurelius recalls that one of the lessons 
taught him by Sextus was to be entirely passionless yet full of 
affection. The objectionable 'passion' is something different, 
and can be understood only by following the Stoic theory of 
appetition, which may be set out as follows : 

All animals are impelled to action by a movement in their 
psychi^ called a horme, 'impulse' or 'drive'. In a brute beast 
this follows directly upon the stimulus of a presentation^ (to 
invent an instance, a dog that scents a hare immediately wants 
to chase it). But in a human being die impulse does not exist 
without a mental act of assent. (A man who sees a hare does 
not immediately desire to chase it: he must first entertain and 
assent to the presentation 'that hare is something to be chased'.) 
The sharp distinction between main and other animals cannot 
be accepted today, but to the Stoics this human peculiarity was 
important because it allowed man to be treated as an agent 
responsible for all his actions. But the impulse in man's psyche 
may get out of hand; it may become excessive; the movement 
of the psyche becomes unreasonable and unnatural. It is then 
a 'passion', a disturbance, of which there are four generic kinds: 

^A mixture of air and fire, responsible for all the functions of the 
living animal; see below p. 82. 
*See below p. 85. 



fear, lust/ mental pain, and mental pleasure. These are dis- 
obedient to reason : Chrysippus used as a simile a comparison 
between a man walking and one running; the former can halt 
instantly, the latter cannot. Similarly the man in whom 'impulse 
is excessive cannot immediately check it; anger and fear cannot 
be volimtarily arrested in a moment. Now since a passion is by 
definition excessive, it should if possible be avoided or pre- 
vented or, if ever entertained, suppressed. A perfect man will 
not suffer from any of these disturbances. 

Let us next examine the four kinds of passion. Fear is a con- 
traction of the psyche caused by the belief that something bad 
is impending. This contraction must be understood literally: 
it causes the physical effects of fear, paleness, shivering, thump- 
ing of the heart. But the belief is false: what is feared is not 
whait a Stoic calls "bad', but one of the morally indifferent 
things, e.g. death, pain, ill-repute. Fear is the result of exaggerat- 
ing their importance, of believing that they will bring real 
harm, whereas they do not touch man's essential moral being, 
and if they come are to be accepted as part of the great plan of 
nature. Lust is a longing for something believed to be good, but 
again falsely so believed, since the supposed good is morally 
indifferent; in physical terms it is described as an expansion 
of the psyche. A great many species of lust were distinguished, 
among which anger rather unexpectedly appears, defined as 
lust for revenge on someone who seems to have done us wrong. 
Mental pain is a contraction of the psyche resulting from the 
belief, again erroneous, that something bad is present. Among 
its species are envy, jealousy, grief and, more surprisingly, pity. 
The condemnation of pity has been bad for the Stoics' reputa- 
tion. But it was logical if pity is understood as arising from the 
belief that what the other person suffers is really bad. If sorrow 
or resentment are not to be felt at one's own sufferings, why 
should they be felt for those of another? Even those who 

ij use the word 'lust' in a wide sense, to represent epithymia, which 
is often translated 'desire'. But 'desire' is inadequate to express the 
meaning of the Greek word, which suggests 'yearning afler a thing', 
setting one's heart on it. The attitude towards it of the Platonists 
had been ambivalent: although it was for them a necessary part of 
the human person it was also regrettable and needed firm discipline 
by reason. 



cannot accept this analysis of pity must admit that it can be a 
feeling that disturbs a man to no good purpose and distorts his 
judgment; in such cases it is to be recognised as what was 
meant by a 'passion', and must be regarded, at least by a Stoic, 
as something to be suppressed. 

Finally pleasure, a word which like 'epithymia' had kept bad 
company in earlier thought, was defined as an irrational expan- 
sion of the psyche caused by the supposed presence of some- 
thing good. Again the nature of the thing over which pleasure 
is felt is, in Stoic eyes, misjudged. What is thought to be good 
is not in fact good, but at the best, 'acceptable'. It is important 
to recognise that the passion called pleasure is essentially a 
mental phenomenon and does not belong to the body. Its species 
include pleasure at unexpected 'benefits', pleasure at other 
people's misfortunes, pleasure caused by deceit or magic. It is to 
be distinguished from what may be called agreeable physical 
feelings; these also have the same name of pleasure. The dan- 
ger of confusion is increased by the fact that there are 'pas- 
sionate' mental pleasures closely associated with sensual physi- 
cal pleasures. If the pleasantness of experience of toudh, sight, 
taste, smell and hearing was thought to be good and important, 
a pleasure arose that was passionate and to be censured (Cicero, 
Talks at Tusculum 4.20), but the agreeable feelings themselves 
were not condemned by any Stoic, although there was no 
agreement on their exact status. Cleanthes denied that they were 
'in accord with nature' or had any value in life, Archedemus 
thought that they were natural but without value, like the hairs 
in the armpit, while Panaetius believed some to be natural and 
others not. 

The general denial of value to physical pleasure was appar- 
endy due to two factors, the first hostility to Epicureanism, the 
other the observation that it was an influence that easily cor- 
rupted the man who experienced it. If one attaches any value 
to pleasure, one is tempted to attach too much. Hence although 
Cleanthes' position seems untenable, for physical pleasure often 
supervenes automatically when we have things that are natural 
for us, it was not obviously wrong to hold that we should aim 
at those things purely for dieir own sake and not because they 
bring pleasure. Such pleasure was not something to which any 
weight should be attached; on the other hand it was not to be 


rejected. But the pleasure which is a passion and condemnable 
is something different j it is in Stoic eyes the result of a faulty 
judgment. Often this will be a judgment that pleasure in the 
other sense is in fact something good. This causes a mental dis- 
turbance: the pleasure that is a passion Will cause the subject 
to direct his energies to obtaining or keeping the agreeable 
feelings towards which he should be indifferent. 

Passions, Which are to be seen as particular instances of dis- 
turbance resting on individual faulty judgments, are related to 
more permanent states. On the one hand some people have a 
proclivity to some particular passion or passions : an irascible 
man has a proclivity to anger. On the other hand repeated indul- 
gence in a passion leads to a diseased state of mind, in which 
there is a permanent and generalised false opinion : for example 
greed repeatedly indulged will breed avarice, or a belief that all 
monetary gain is very desirable. Chrysippus developed this line 
of thought by drawing parallels between the body and the 
psyche. Some persons have a tendency to certain illnesses, and 
certain physical disturbances establish chronic sickness. Cicero 
found these similes unnecessary {Talks at Tusculum 4.23), but 
they were apt for one who thought the psyche to be as material 
as the body, and they call attention to some undoubted psycho- 
logical facts. They also are the basis of what was to become a 
popular metaphor : the philosopher is the physician of the soul. 
Understanding the nature of the disease, he is best able to 
prescribe methods for avoiding or curing it. 

For later Stoics the practical task of suppressing the passions 
loomed large, and often absorbed more of their energies than 
thinking about the basic theory of their system. The treatment 
of passions as diseases confirmed the ideal of their complete 
elimination. This aim of being without passions (apatheia) was 
contrasted with the ideal of moderation in passion (metriopa- 
theia) adopted by Peripatetics in dependence on Aristotle, who 
had held that it was wrong to feel either too little or too much 
fear, anger, or other emotion. The distinction, although justi- 
fied, can be exaggerated. The Stoic passion is an excessive un- 
controlled drive, due to an overestimation of indifferent things, 
but there is also a correct drive towards these same things. 
The moderate passion of the Peripatetic is a correct feeling, and 
so could perhaps not be regarded by a Stoic as a passion at all. 



But members of the two schools would be likely to differ over 
what was correct. What a Peripatetic would regard as a cor- 
rect amount of anger or of fear would seem excessive to a Stoic. 

These were the views on the passions that were generally 
agreed among the Stoics. We must go on to consider some dif- 
ferences and difficulties. In the first place, a passion is 'an ex- 
cessive impulse (or drive)' and the exact nature of what was 
meant by the word horme (limpulse or drive) is not easy to 
grasp. In children and animals it must be seen simply as a 
desire to do something, Which will unless hindered be followed 
by movements in the psyche that will effect bodily action. In 
an adult, however, it is associated with an act of assent and a 
judgment. According to Galen, Whose view is accepted by many 
modem scholars, Zeno believed that the impulse which was a 
passion supervened on the judgment. Psychic expansion and 
contraction are plausibly seen as different from the judgments 
that cause them, and some think that Zeno took them to be the 
movements of an irrational element in the psyche. Ghrysippus, 
on the other hand, identified the impulse with a logos that 
commands a man to act, or a judgment. Later Stoics followed 
him when they defined it as 'a movement of thought towards 
something in the field of action'. 

"Die contrast between the two accounts is clear, yet Ghrysip- 
pus himself does not seem to have emphasised it. He retained 
Zeno's language, according to which a passion was 'an exces- 
sive impulse and disobedient to reason' and specifically inter- 
preted the last words to mean, not 'the product of perverted 
reason' but 'not moved by reason at all', ''having abandoned 
reason'. Moreover Plutarch and Galen quoted from Ghrysippus 
some passages which imply either that passion succeeds a judg- 
ment or that it opposes one; perhaps these were either care- 
lessly written or belong to a time before he had adopted his 
final piosition, which was that the impulse was not to be dis- 
tinguished from the judgment. He defined mental pain as 'a 
fresh belief in the presence of something bad', fear as 'expec- 
tation of something bad', and so on. On the other hand this 
view seems to have been anticipated by Zeno, to whom Posi- 
donius ascribed a definition of mental pain as 'a fresh opinion 
that something bad for oneself is present'. Elsewhere this is 
represented as Ghrysippean doctrine, but it is improbable that 


Posidonius was mistaken in bis ascription, since Cicero says that 
it was Zeno who added ithe word 'fresh', so rightly altering an 
earlier form of the definition {Talks at Tusculum 3.75). 

A possible solution is that, seeing a complex which comprised 
an opinion and a necessarily connected psychic movement, Zeno 
did not clearly identify passion with either element, but re- 
garded it sometimes as the one, sometimes as the other. When, 
however, he said that the impulse of a passion is disobedient 
to reason, the phrase could suggest that the psyche contained 
two elements, a rational one and another 'that was irrational 
and insubordinate. Cleanthes perhaps understood the doctrine 
in this way, if a dialogue in verse between Calculation and 
Anger may be taken literally. 

Calculation : Whatever is it that you want ? Explain. 

Anger : I want ? I want to do whatever I want. 

Calculation : A regal wish ! But say it once again. 

Anger : Whatever I desire I want to happen. 

The lines were, however, quoted by Posidonius in order to 
claim the supp>ort of Cleanthes for his own view that the psyche 
had both rational and irrational powers. He may have mis- 
interpreted them for this purpose. By Anger Cleanthes may 
have meant not an irrational force but perverted reason, here 
presented in an imaginary dialogue with (true) Calculation.^ 
Chrysippus then decided that the passion must be identified 
with the opinion that was involved with it. This seems an odd 
doctrine. That a passion is something that supervenes on a 
judgment or belief might be argued: it hardly seems to be the 
judgment itself. Chrysippus seems to have been led to this 
improbable view through believing that in adult man the com- 
mand-centre was essentially rational. He could not admit the 
existence outside it of any other autonomous force. Hence it 
was necessary that a passion should be an act of reason, or an 
intellectual act, although a perverted one. This had the advan- 
tage of appearing to show that it would not be a complicated 
matter to get rid of the passions: all that would be needed is 

^It is possible that Cleanthes did not use the word thymos as Stoics 
usually did, of a kind of anger, but in a wider meaning which 
covers desire in general. 



the firm belief that morally indifTerent things are neither good 
nor bad. 

But although Ghrysippus did not recognise an independent 
irrational force, he did admit that the passion had irrational 
effects. Probably he sometimes explained mental pain more 
fully as 'a fresh belief in the presence of something bad, by 
reason of which men think they ought to suffer contraction' (of 
die psyche). Certainly he spoke of pleasure as 'a swelling' or 
'elation'. It may perhaps be supposed that these contractions 
and elations correspond to the feelings with which we are in- 
cHned to identify the passions. Ghrysippus' point is that they are 
not autonomous forces but the intended result of faulty judg- 
ments; it is better to give the name 'passion' to whaA is essen- 
tial and primary in this complex. 

The Chrysippean view is open to some obvious objections, 
which were seen and in a measure answered. First there is the 
experience of being the victim of a passion and of fighting it, 
of being afraid and knowing that one ought not to be afraid. 
How can one simultaneously believe that something bad is 
threatening and that what is threatening is not bad? Some 
Stoics seem to have explained this by saying that the two be- 
liefs were held alternately in such rapid succession that both 
appeared to be held continuously (Plutarch, Mortdia 446 f). 
Secondly, animals and children, not being rational, cannot suf- 
fer from passions; yet they appear to be afraid, pained, etc. 
It was argued that children have only something analogous 
to passions: they are so volatile in changing from tears to 
laughter, from apparent fright to happy play, that they cannot 
be genuinely wretched or frightened. Th'irdly, why if passions 
are judgments do they vary in intensity? Why do they fre- 
quently abate? Does the judgment change? Ghrysippus saw 
the difficulty and answered that the judgment, e.g. that some- 
thing bad is present, does not change, but that as time passes 
the contraction of the psyche is relaxed, and probably also the 
impulse to contract. That, it would seem, is to say that the 
thought 'my psyche ought to contract', which accompanied 
the judgment that something bad was present, becomes less 
insistent. Alternatively, the impulse remains the same but its 
effects are blocked 'through some supervening condition'. 
Galen complains that Ghrysippus did not explain further the 


mechanism he had in mind. One can only guess. The word 
used for 'condition' {diathesis) is elsewhere used, perhaps only 
used, of lasting conditions of the psyche. Possibly these inter- 
vene to restore the status quo after an initial disturbance. 
Ohrysippus compared the way in which we cease to weep or 
to laugh, the causes of tears and laughter becoming less effec- 
tive as time goes on. 

The good emotions 

There are correct impulses as well as excessive ones. At some 
time these were given the name eupatheiai, 'good emotions'. 
Cicero calls them constantiae, perhaps 'steady states', as op- 
posed to the imcontrolled exaggerated drive of the passion.^ 
Alongside desire there is wish or well-reasoned appetite, along- 
side fear there is caution or well-reasoned avoidance, alongside 
pleasure ithere is joy or well-reasoned elation. But these states 
of feeling were confined to the wise man, who alone had correct 
reason. That is why there is no correct impulse of mental pain. 
The wise man must accept all that happens to him as provi- 
dentially ordered, and there is nothing morally bad in him 
which might provide a rational cause for distress. 

But here a problem presents itself. Were these good emo- 
tions related to what was truly good and bad or, like the pas- 
sions, to what was morally indifferent? Andronicus, who at 
the end of the first century bc listed Stoic definitions of virtues 
and vices, passions and good emotions, explained two kinds 
of joy as due to the presence of truly good things and caution 
as the avdidance of immoral acts. Seneca defined joy as the 
mental elation of a man who trusts in his own goods and 
truths, and insisted that these were things that could not be 
taken from him (Letter 59)." If joy is a th'ing of this kind, it is 
intelligible that it at least should preserve the wise. Other 
authors write as if the good emotions were identifiable with 
correct impulses towards or from morally indifferent objects, 
whereas excessive impmlses constituted the passions (Plutarch 
Moralia 449a, Cicero, Talks at Tttsculum 4.12-14, Lactantius 
Div. Inst. 6.15). But if this is right, it is hard to see why they 
should be confined to the wise. The ordinary man does not 

'Can be have misread eupatheia as eustatheia, 'stability'? 



always suffer a passion when he might do so : the same danger 
may frighten one man and not another. Although the latter's 
reason may not be perfect, it may function correctly sometimes 
and so produce a correct impulse. Accordingly one should per- 
haps conclude that these authors misunderstood or misrepre- 
sented the Stoic view. Yet it must be admitted that even the 
assumption that good emotions were concerned with what was 
really good or bad leaves the wise man's monopoly of well- 
reasoned appetite and caution somewhat surprising. Why should 
not an imperfect man altruistically wish other men's moral 
good, and desire to avoid committing a crime himself? Perhaps 
it was thought that in such cases his drive was necessarily in- 
adequate, and that his emotion could not therefore be well- 


This analytical and sometimes adverse account of Stoic ethics 
must appear somewhat arid and may fail to give an adequate 
picture of their attraction. If certain assumptions are accepted, 
the whole system hangs together and so can claim intellectual 
respectability. It recognises as legitimate objects of endeavour 
much to which men automatically attach value, but in the 
last resort things which lihey cannot control are of no import- 
ance. Happiness depends on what is entirely a man's own 
doing, the operation of his mind: if he judges correctly and 
holds steadfastly to truth he will be a perfect being, whom mis- 
fortune may strike but will never harm. 

The wise man will be more rightly called a king than was 
Tarquin, who could rule neither himself nor his people . . . 
more rightly rich than Crassus ... All things will rightly 
be called his, for he alone knows how to use them; rightly 
too will he be called beautiful, for the features of the mind 
are more beautiful than those of the body, rightiy the only 
free man, since he obeys no master and is the servant of no 
greed, righdy invincible, for though his body may be bound, 
no fetters can be put on his mind ... If it is true that none 
but the wise are good and all the good are blessed, is any- 
thing more to be studied 'dian philosophy or anything more 
divine than virtue? (Cicero, De Finibus 3.75-6.) 

The System : Natural Science 

For the Greeks 'physics' was the study of the physical world 
and its changes. It was therefore a wider subject than modem 
physics. For the Stoics it included psychology and epistemology, 
for these deal with activities of the psyche, which they held to 
be a material entity. These subjects we readily accept as the 
concern of philosophers, but explanation of the physical world 
we leave to the scientists. Among the Greeks things were otiier- 
wise, and for the Stoics cosmology was an integral part of philo- 
sophy, and inextricably connected with their ethics. They be- 
lieved ^ey could show that the w'hole world (i.e. the universe) 
was the planned and providential work of God, thait human 
reason if correct must think in the same way as the divine 
reason, and that man should therefore accept willingly all that 

It must be confessed that the basic principle that everything 
is providentially planned appears to be asserted rather dian 
argued. It is not known how Zeno tried to establish the omni- 
potence of God, if he tried at all. But we have an argument 
of his to support the existence of gods: 'it would be reasonable 
to honour the gods; it would not be reasona^ble to honour the 
non-existent; therefore gods exist'. Cleanthes put forward an 
argument more interesting than this obvious fallacy:^ 

If one nature is better than another, there must be a nature 
that is best. If one soul is better than another, there must be 
a soul that is best. And if one living thing is better than 
another, there must be a living thing that is best. In such 
cases there is no run to infinity. So there is no infinite 

'But in his dialogue Eudemus (frag. 33 Rose) Aristotle had argued 
that libations are made to the dead and oaths sworn by them, that 
no one makes libations to the absolutely non-existent or swears by 
them, and that this proves the immortality of the soul. He may have 
known that his second premise fell short of being established; did 
Zeno see that his first premise was a peHHo principii? 



progression of living things, any more than there is of natures 
or souls. But clearly one living thing is better [the Greek 
word also means 'stronger'], than another, as a horse is 
better than a tortoise and a bull than a donkey and a lion than 
a bull. Of all living beings on earth man is the superior and 
the best in condition of body and mind, and so he would 
seem to be the supreme and best hving being. Yet he can 
hardly be that, when one sees right away that he walks in 
wickedness all his days, or if not, for the greater part (if he 
ever were to acquire virtue, it comes late at life's sunset), 
and he is subject to disaster and lacks strength and needs a 
thousand kinds of aid, such as food and shelter and all other 
care of his body, which stands over him like a cruel tyrant 
demanding a daily toll and threatening disease and death if 
there should be no provision for its washing and oiling and 
clothing and feeding. So man is not a perfect living being, 
but imperfect and far removed from perfection. What is per- 
fect and best would be superior to man, replete with all the 
virtues and luitouched by any ill. This will be identical with 
God. Therefore there is a Goid. (Sextus, Against the Dogma- 
tists, 9.88-91.) 

This also is fallacious, depending on the ambiguity of the 
word "best', used sometimes to mean 'the best that diere is', 
sometimes 'the best that could be'. 

Besides this attempted logical proof Gleanthes enumerated 
reasons which as a matter of fact caused men to believe in gods: 
the experience of foretelling the future, the greatness of the 
benefits offered man by the world in which he lives, the terror 
that arises from storms, lightning, pestilence, earthquakes, etc., 
the regularity of the movements of the heavenly bodies. The first 
and Ijist of these reasons had been given by Aristotle in his 
published dialogue On Philosophy (frag. 12 Rose); the third 
does not appear in any later Stoic author, being no doubt in- 
convenient for believers in Providence. 

Ohrysippus modified Gleandies' logical argument to run as 

If there are no gods there can be nothing better than man, 
as die sole possessor of reason. But dt would be foolish arro- 


g£ince to think there was nothing better in the world than 
yourself. Then there is something better, and God therefore 

He also argued that the maker of the heavenly bodies must be 
superior to man, who could not make them, and therefore be a 

In his interesting book Physics of the Stoics (1959) S. Sam- 
bursky tried to show that in some sense they anticipated many 
modem ideas. There is a danger of exaggerating the similarity, 
but it is useful to recognise that they took some steps in the 
right direction, even although the road they followed was no 
throug'hway. To the modern reader much of Stoic physics 
must seem childishly inadequate or misconceived; the detail 
is only to be understood if it is seen as dependent on certain 
primitive conceptions. But for all this he should bear in mind 
that in some ways Stoic views approached modem ones more 
nearly than did those of other ancient thinkers. First, they saw 
the world as a continuum. For us there is a continuum of forces: 
gravitation binds together the whole of the solar system, while 
its rotation generates forces that prevent its collapse; for the 
Stoics the continuum was maiterial, a 'breath' passing through 
all things and not merely maintaining them, but also giving 
them their characteristics. Secondly, as we think of overlapping 
fields of force or superimposed wave motions, they conceived 
of the 'breath' as having simultaneous states added one to 
another. Thirdly, they emphasised the change and movement 
that characterise nature; stability is a secondary phenomenon 
due to an equilibrium of forces; the world is to be seen as a 
process leading from birth to consummation. 

Ultimate principles 

Zeno accepted the common view that there were four elemental 
substances, earth, water, air and fire, and also the common 
belief that these were mutable: earth could become water, 
water air, air fire, and vice versa. This appears to be evident: 
springs bubble up from the earth, water left in a pan disappears 
into the air, and so does a flame, which will on the other hand 
not burn if deprived of air. This way of interpreting the world 
does not require the so-called 'elements' each to have a single 



form; there were, for example, different kinds of thing that the 
Greeks called 'air': mist is a visible kind, wind an invisible, 
just as the air we breathe out is invisible on a warm day, visible 
on a frosty one. But all forms of 'air" are much more like one 
another than they are like any kind of 'water'. Similarly 
the Stoics distinguished various kinds of 'fire'. There was the 
fire to be seen within a burning object, the flame which is out- 
side it, and the radiance or light that proceeds from the flame. 
But fire was not all visible: for example, the warmth of a living 
creature was due to there being fire within it, but one that could 
not be seen. 

The mutability of the elements requires that they cannot be 
the ultimate principles; there must be something that \mder- 
lies them. Zeno held that these ultimate principles were two, 
Grod and matter. God is active, matter passive; matter has no 
qualities (although it must be supposed to have extension and 
also 'resistance to pressure', to distinguish it from mere exten- 
sion or space), God is logos, a word for which there is no English 
equivalent. Logos has many implications, which make it a 
dsmgerous tool for philosophers. The noun is cognate with the 
verb legein 'to say', not only is it language, 'speech', 'expres- 
sion', it is the explanation of a thing, which may be the account 
or formula of its constitution, and the statement of its purpose. 
But to give the grounds for anything is a rational activity, and 
the epithet 'rational' may be supposed to mean what is marked 
by the use, not merely of reason, but by that of correct reason. 
Perhaps 'plan' has something of the same ambiguity. A plan 
may be nothing more than a map which indicates the shape of 
natural features. In this sense it is theoretically possible to make 
a plan of Greece. But the plan of a house not only indicates its 
shape, but implies the intentions of a rational being, its archi- 
tect. And a plan of campaign does not relate to something 
static like a house, but to a process of which the later stages are 
foreseen from the first. So the logos that is God by giving 
shape to matter makes the world and all the ihings that are in 
it; it is rational, that is to say the world is not an arbitrary or 
haphazard construction; and finally the world must be seen 
as a dynamic process, tending to some kind of consummation, 
not as a static organisation with a permanent form. This last 
feature is not a necessary implication of the word logos, but it 



is one that is fundamental to the Stoic way of looking at the 
universe, and distinguishes them from Platonists and Peripa- 

God and matter are always conjoined, and their conjunc- 
tion makes the four elements. It is the logos which makes the 
matter take the form now of fire, now of water and now df 

There are many passages in which the Stoic god is said to be 
a breath (pneuma) that passes through all things and fashions 
them; a breath is elsewhere defined as a mixture of air and 
fire. The god that makes the world is also sometimes called 
'fire that is an artificer (pyr technikon)'. Since air and fire can 
in theory be analysed into combinations of matter and God, 
the Stoics seem to be caught in an eternal regress, if God is, as 
breath or fire, himself a combination of matter and God. The 
difficulty is so obvious that a misunderstanding may be sus- 
pected. The mistake lies in supposing that the word 'God' 
always denotes the same diing. The falsity of this assumption 
is apparent since Stoics could call the whole world Kjod' (e.g. 
Ghrysippus in Cicero, Nature of the Gods 1.39), no less than 
the immanent force that gave it all its character. Most imme- 
diately this force consisted of the "breath", a combination of air 
and fire, that penetrated and oi^anised the inert elements of 
earth and water. But since this material 'breath' that may be 
called God is a body, it is therefore logically analysed into mat- 
ter and God. Here is reached the basic meaning of God, not a 
body, but that which by its association with matter gives rise 
to the first body and is responsible for its qualities. There is 
then no regress, if the distinction is preserved between God as 
a basic principle and God as a body with characteristics given 
by that basic principle. But it may be doubted whether Stoic 
authors, when they spoke of God passing through the universe, 
were always clear in which sense they were using the word, nor 
would it matter to them, since in either sense the statement 
was true. 

Tliere is one consideration that tells against this solution. 
Gfod acts upon prime matter, he is the cause (Seneca, Letters 
65.2) that gives it form; and all causes, according to the ortho- 
dox view, are bodies, and act upon bodies. Moreover only 
bodies can be said to 'be', although incorporeal things have 



some other sort of quasi-existence. Diogenes Laertes 7,134 says 
that the ultimate principles are bodies,^ and there are several 
passages in handbook summaries or in the writings of opj)o- 
nents where matter is said to be body. Perhaps the solution is 
this. Any actual body is a compound of matter and logos; 
these principles cannot each be body in that sense, yet taken 
together they are body. This may have been misunderstood 
to mean that each severally was a body. 

Some modem authors identify fire the artificer' vwth God 
the logos. This is not justified. Fire the artificer is a form of 
the element fire, distinguished by its constructive effects from 
destructive fire, but just as much a combinaition of matter and 
logos. It is not a basic principle, but a material thing, percept- 
ible by the senses. The sun was described as 'an intelligent star, 
fiery with artificer fire', and Cleanthes said that its fire was like 
the fire to be found in living things; this fire is, of course, that 
which gives them warmth. All fire needs nourishment; the fire 
of an animal is fed by converting an exhalation from the blood, 
the fire of the sun is ignited from the exhalation (evaporation) 
from the sea. 

The use of the word hylS (matter) for one of the basic prin- 
ciples recalls the Aristotelian analysis of things into matter and 
form. But the active, divine logos is much more reminiscent of 
the Platonists with whom Zeno studied. Under the mask of 
Timaeus in the dialogue of that name, Plato had himself sug- 
gested that a divine craftsman made reflections of the Forms 
appear in a 'Receptacle itself devoid of qualities' : thus was con- 
stituted the physical world. He did not give the name 'matter" 
to that receptacle, which was indeed more like space, but later 
Platonists did. Whether that had happened by Zeno's time 
cannot be said; it must be confessed that diere is no evidence of 
it.^ Xenocrates took as his first principles the One, which he also 
called Zeus and Mind, and the Ever-Changing or the Undeter- 

^So in our mss. but the Suda quoting the passage substitutes the 
word 'incorporeal' for 'bodies'. Aristocles, however, thought Zeno 
to have believed that both matter and God were bodies (see Eusebius 
XV p. 816d). 

*But Aristotle already identified the Receptacle with matter: 
'Plato says in Timaeus that matter and space are one and the same' 
{Physics 4. 209 b 11). 



mined, which later Greeks identified with matter. Zeno's scheme 
has a clear similarity with these Academic views, and this was 
seen in the second century ad by Aristocles who wrote : 'they say 
that the elementary stufT of things is fire, as Heraclitus did, and 
that its principles are matter and god, like Plato'. 

Total blending 

An essential element of Stoic physics was the doctrine of 'total 
blending" (krdsis difholon). According to this, two substances 
might occupy the same space, although each is continuous and 
contains no void. These substances retained their identities and 
their qualities, so that 'blending" was distinguished from 'fusion', 
in which the original qualities are lost. The size of the body so 
formed was not determined by adding the sizes of the constitu- 
ents; it might be larger or smaller than either. Each constituent 
was conceived of as indefinitely elastic: so Chrysippus declared 
that a drop of wine could blend with the whole ocean, or even 
spread through the whole universe. The imjx)rtance of the 
doctrine lies in the explanation of qualities. These were given 
to objects composed mainly of the inert elements, earth and 
water, by 'breatfis' of the active air and fire, which moved with- 
in the space occupied by the object. The complete interpene- 
tration of the earth and water by the air and fire gave rise to an 
object of which every part was characterised by its own quali- 
ties. In the case of a living being, this 'breath' was that particu- 
lar combination of air and fire that was called psyche (life-soul), 
and by penetrating all the tissues it made them live tissues. 
Similarly in the macrocosm God was conceived as a breath pene- 
trating and controlling and unifying the whole of the world. 
This unifying breath was the world's psyche: the world was a 
living being, as indeed dt had been for Plato in the Timaeus, 
and it was animated by a perfect intelligence. Tliis conclusion is 
best seen as an act of faith, inspiring and comforting. The at- 
tempts made to confirm it by reasoning seem obvious sophistries, 
for example: the intelligent is better than the unintelligent and 
the animate than tfie inanimate; nothing is better than the 
world; therefore the world is intelligent and animale. Or again: 
nothing without life and reason can generate a living being that 
possesses reason; the world generates living and reasoning 
beings; therefore the world is living and possesses reason (Zeno 



in Cicero, Nature of the Gods 2.22). It is not plain what is the 
relation between the universal breath and the breaths that give 
individual things their qualities. Perhaps they are best seen as 
parts of the whole, so that the mixed air and fire of which they 
are composed will pass in and out of the object as well as move 
back and forth within it. 

The concept of 'total blending' is strange to us, who are 
accustomed to think of matter not as continuous but as atomic' 
It was found equally strange by other ancient philosophers, who 
could not stomach the idea that two bodies might occupy the 
same place. Nevertheless the Stoics maintained that it was one 
commonly held. After all this is what appears to happen when 
iron is made red-hot or water mixed with wine. Every part of 
the iron seems to be fiery, every past of the wine to be watery: 
we do not see particles of wine and water, or of iron and fire, 
juxtaposed; on the contrary there seems to be a total blending. 
That the wine and the water retain their identities was supposed 
to be established by an experiment: it was claimed that if an 
oiled sponge is placed in a mixture of wine and water, water is 
separated out and taken up by the sponge. 


Closely attached to die idea of the interpenetrating breath is 
that of 'tension'. The word is first met in the fragments of 
Cleanthes, where it recurs several times. This may be acci- 
dental, but perhaps he introduced it. Tautness may be illus- 
trated by a human muscle or the string of a lyre. The tense 
muscle keeps its shape even under external pressure, the string 
not only returns, when plucked, to its original position, but to 
its tension also owes both its straightness and its sonority. 
Probably enlarging on such observations the Stoics believed 
that tension was the ca\ise of all lasting states of tilings, and 
indeed of the durability of the things themselves. Tension is 
what holds things together, from the whole world down to the 
smallest object in it. 

To recognise that there are cohesive forces in nature was 
important, to suppose 'them all to be the same force an over- 

^Consistent with the view of matter as a continuum was the denial 
of any void within the world. Void was necessary outside the world 
to allow for its future expansion (see p. 78 below). 



simplification. To give them a name was easy, to provide an 
explanation more difficult. Cleanthes said that tension was 'a. 
stroke of fire'; what he meant by this must be uncertain 
(Plutarch Moralia 1034 D). But the later orthodox view, prob- 
ably due to Chrysippus, held tension to be primarily a quality 
of air or of pneuma (the 'breath' that is a mixture of air and 
fire), conmiunicated by them to the objects formed by their 
interpenetrating mixture with earth and water. This quality 
was itself explained as the resultant of two equal but opposed 
motions. The pneuma which is mixed with the two inert 
elements in any physical thing is at once moving outwards 
towards the surface and inwards towards the centre. The out- 
ward movement gives the object size, shape, and other quali- 
ties, the inward integrates it, causes it to be one thing, a single 
substance. These two opposed motions, whose sum results in 
stability, might be understood in three ways. First, part of the 
air might move outwards while an equal part moved inwards. 
The stability would then be like that of Heraclitus' world, where 
water changes into fire and an equal measure of fire changes 
into water. Secondly, the whole of the air might move out- 
wards at one instant and inwards at the next, giving what we 
should call a vibration. Thirdly, there may be no change of 
place at all, but the 'movements' are what we should call 
'forces' acting upon the air. The doctor Galen, discussing mus- 
cular tension, uses material provided by the supporters of 
'tensional movements'. A body, he says, may be moved in 
opposite directions by two forces, and remain in 'the same place: 
for example a stationary swimmer may be moved downstream 
by a current, and upstream by his own exertions. Similarly a 
hovering bird is moved downwards by its weight, upward by the 
beat of its wings. He then asks, but leaves the question open, 
whether there is in such cases an alternation of real move- 
ment so rapid as to escape the eye or a truly stationary posi- 
tion {On Muscular Movement 1.8.). 

Which was the Stoic way of thinking? Sambursky supposes 
they gave the 'vibrating* explanation, but this may be no more 
than Galen's own suggestion. Philo, who adopts much Stoic 
doctrine, describes the pneuma as proceeding to the surface, 
turning round, and returning to the starting point {God's Im- 
mutability 35). He must intend a continuous stream of which 



at any moment part is moving outward, part turning, part com- 
ing back. If this is correct, the swimmer and the bird will re- 
present a thing's inert elements, held in place by the equivalent 
inward and outward movements of the breath that pcisses 
through them. 

Since the psyche is a physical body it will have its own tension. 
Just as muscle may be firm, or if its tension is inadequate, slack, 
so the psyche may be finn or slack. A slack muscle is inefficient 
and a slack psyche will be unable to maintain a correct opinion. 
It is no doubt because a wise man's psyche or soul is taut that 
it jdone, according to Chrysippus, survives until the general con- 
flagration : weaker souls collapse and break up. 

The "^conflagration' 

The belief that the world-process culminated in the conversion 
of everything to fire, which would die down to become first air, 
then water,^ except for a remnant, a seed that would reorganise 
a new world, identical in every detail and every incident with 
that of the preceding cycle, a sequence eternally repeated, is a 
picturesque but strange feature of orthodox Stoicism. The 
heavenly fires of sun and stars needed their fuel, which was pro- 
vided by the evaporation of water from the earth and its seas, 
and it was argued that the water would finally be exhausted and 
the fire then consume air and earth. Since fire is more tenuous 
than the other elements the universe must expand in 'this con- 
flagration; hence there must be empty space outside the world 
sphere organised as we know it, although there is none within it. 
Cleanthes thought that in the final stage the world would be all 
flame, not realising that there cannot be a flame without some- 
thing to feed it. Chrysippus went further and believed that it 
would be all light, the most tenuous sort of fire; possibly, since 
light is associated with knowledge, he thought this the ideal 
form to be taken by the rational thinking soul of the world 
when it was rid of its body. 

'It may cause surprise that the process does not lead to the 
element most distant from fire, namely earth. The reason may be 
that as soon as water has appeared the remnant of fire has an inert 
element on which to work; it converts some water into air, while 
other parts of the water become earth: thus there arise jJl four 
elements required for a world. 



Some Stoics claimed that a conflagration had been part of 
Heraclitus' cosmology, but it seems more likely that they found 
it possible so to interpret him in order to support their own view 
than that they derived it from him. One can only guess at their 
reasons for holding it. Perhaps Zeno believed that fire would 
necessarily continue to convert other elements into itself so long 
as fuel remained. But, however arrived at, the doctrine was 
acceptable because if the world is seen as a process, it is con- 
venient that the process should tend to some end or perfection; 
at the conflagration the world is at its most perfect, no longer 
body and soul as it were, but all converted to the kind of fire 
that had previously given it its qualities. The idea that there 
are innumerable world cycles, identical in every detail, had al- 
ready occurred to some Pythagoreans, and Zeno may have 
known of this: he wrote a book called Pythagorica. But whether 
he borrowed or invented it, it was necessary that if there were 
successive world-cycles, they should be identical, since Provi- 
dence, which is responsible for everything, must order the world 
in the best way possible, and it is plausible that there cannot be 
two ways equally good. 

The arguments in favour of this scheme were not cogent and 
it involved difficulties: a number of Stoics in the century after 
Chrysippus doubted or abandoned it (Zeno of Tarsus, Diogenes 
of Babylon, Boethus of Sidon (see p. 120), Panaetius). But it re- 
mained orthodox and was accepted by Seneca and Marcus 
Aurelius. The former believed in alternate destructions of the 
world by fire and water {Questions about Nature, 3.27); the 
flood, however, was only a partial liquefaction, drowning 'most 
of the earth'; it was a catastrophe, the fire was a consummation. 
Tlie two events, although the poles of the cycle, are not on the 
same plane. 

Fate and Providence 

Since the world and its events are entirely determined by God, 
thought of as a plan, he can be identified with Nature, with 
Fate, and with Providence. Nature [physis) is a dynamic term, 
'the way things grow', and Zeno defined Nature as 'a fire that is 
an artificer, proceeding methodically to generation'. This is the 
fire that is God, who methodically executes the plan according 
to which the world and all that is in it change and grow. Fate 



is a name for the certainty of the process : the plan is inexorably 
executed. Providence is God's rationality: the process is purpose- 
ful. There was no attempt to suggest that God's purposes might 
be essentially unfathomable to man. God and man have the 
same sort of reason, although man's reason may failj God's 
purposes will be of a sort that a man, if fully intelligent, would 
approve. His Providence is seen, therefore, as providing for 
the maintenance and good order of the world, and for its 
usefidness to man. An implication was that animals had been 
created for man's benefit. Perhaps the majority of men treat 
them in a way which assumes this principle, but the Stoics alone 
in classical antiquity explicitly recognised it. Chrysippus 
said that the pig had been given a psyche (life) to keep its 
flesh sweet, and had been made fertile to provide man with 
his meals. The peacock had its tail because both Nature and 
man were lovers of beauty. This subordination of animals 
meant that they had no rights against men, who were free to 
exploit them. 

The belief that all events were pre-determined was used to 
support the truth of prophecy, and even the arts of tfie astro- 
loger were accepted when they reached the Greek world in the 
second century bg. It was easy to suppose that in an integrated 
universe the position of the stars at a man's birth could be con- 
sistent with one set only of future events.^ In general it was 
argued that it was convenient for man to know his future and 
that since God was Providence, he must have provided the 
means by which it could be known. Critics replied that if man 
could not affect the future it could not profit him to know it; he 
would get nothing but unnecessary distress through being forced 
to know in advance of coming misfortunes. This is a superficial 
objection. The Stoic aims at avoiding emotional reactions to 
what the world calls 'evil'; it is the unexpected blow or the 
sudden disappointment that puts one off balance; to be fore- 
warned is to be forearmed. 
Just as the rule of Fate made prophecy possible, the success 

'But some Stoics kept their heads. Diogenes of Babylon admitted 
that the stars might indicate character, but nothhig more. He 
pointed out that twins often had differing careers. Panaetius had 
absolutely no use for astrology. 



of prophecy was held to argue for the rule of Fate: Chrysippxis 
therrfore gave much attention to collecting instances of veri- 
dical predictions by methods ranging from oracles to dreams. 
Clearly even if all predictions could be shown to be true, it 
would not follow that all events were fated; yet the more events 
are correctly predicted, the more plausible it becomes that all 
are pre-determined. 

Posidonius wrote five volumes on prophecy and worked out 
a theoretical basis for it. (Cicero, On Divination 1.64, 125fF; 
2.35.) In the first place God may be said to cause omens: for 
example, we know by experience that a formation X in the en- 
trails of a sacrificial victim portends Y; God either causes man 
to choose a victim that has this formation, or creates the forma- 
tion in the victim that has been chosen. But this causation is 
not isolated; it is part of the whole chain of causes that deter- 
mines all the world's events. Prophecy is not a kind of magic; 
both the appearance of the portent and the thing portended 
have natural causes. God understands all of these, men can 
know only a part, or perhaps only that Y follows X, not why it 
follows. On this basis professional prophecy rests. Then men 
often foresee the future in dreams or trances, or at the point of 
death: this is because the mind 'sees' most clearly when least 
involved with the body. Another reason is that God communi- 
cates with men in their sleep; this argument recogpiises a com- 
mon form of dream in the ancient world, in which a God 
appears with information or advice. Similarly dead persons also 
appeared as mentors in dreams and it is probably to this that a 
third jihrase refers: 'the air is full of inmiortal souls, in whom 
there appear impressed as it were, marks of truth'. 

The idea of a 'chain of causes' is not as easy as might appear 
at first sight. We are inclined to interpret the phrase to mean 
that an event X determines another event Y, which in turn de- 
termines event Z, and so on. This is not what the Stoics meant. 
Whereas Aristotle often talked as if one could identify the 
causes oif a thing, e.g. a house, they insisted that while the cause 
was a body and the thing it affected a body, that of which it was 
the cause was an event. A knife and flesh are both bodies, a knife 
is the cause of a cutting of the flesh, an event. Hence the Stoics 
cannot understand the 'chain of causes' as meaning that X 
causes Y, which causes Z, and so on. They identified it with 



Fate (appealing, according to ancient methods of etymology, 
to the likeness of the words heirmos 'chain' and heimarmene 
'Fate'), and so with the will of God. This must be seen as the 
world-controlling 'breath' in its successive states. These do not 
cause one another, but the events in the world. Yet although 
the links in a Chain do not cause one another, in some sense they 
imply one another, for they must fit together. So the chain of 
causes must '■hang together' in such a way that it could not be 
otherwise than it is; to change any part of it would be to ruin 
the whole. 

The 'soul' 

The Greek word psyche is conventionally and misleadingly 
translated by 'soxal'. It is rather life, or the cause of life, and in 
a himian being sensation and perception, emotion and thought 
are all part of life if it is fully present; they are therrfore all 
activities of the psyche. Since life is a characteristic of the living 
animal, its death is supposed by some to mean that the cause of 
life no longer exists: on the other hand there are those who feel 
it illogical that the cause of life should itself suffer death, and 
believe that it persists when the body dies; and since we do not 
normally wish our own death or that of our friends, there is an 
emotional reason for believing that the psyche, whose activities 
we value, should survive and continue to exercise them. Such 
a belief is usually implied by the word soul; it is not implied by 
psyche, although in fact many Greeks did believe in its survival, 
and indeed in its immortality. Survival of the psyche is more 
difficult for those who, like the Stoics, think it material.^ When 
it leaves the body it must be found some local habitation, where 
it will be subject to physical dangers. Moreover, the Stoics had 
little reason for wanting the psyche to survive. Death was not 
for them an evil, which an after-life might diminish; the world 

^Zeno had been unable to conceive of an immaterial psyche, as 
Plato had done, partly because he refused to believe that anything 
incorporeal was full being, but also because he could not see how 
anything incorporeal could afFect the material body or be affected 
by it. Popular thought had always conceived of the psyche in 
physical terms, as a tenuous kind of matter, and Epiciirus thought 
in the same way. The Stoics were therefore doing nothing strange in 
believing in a. psyche that was material and liable to destruction. 



too in which men live was entirely governed by Providence, so 
no af ter-Hfe was needed as a recompense. They had then no real 
interest in survival, although it was orthodox to suppose a limited 
one.* The psyche, which was a mixture of air and fire 'in tension', 
would hold itself together for a time, contracted into a spherical 
shape and risen to the upper air: the weaker souls would break 
up first zmd only those of the ideal wise men would persist until 
finally caught up in the conflagration that would end the world- 
cycle. We are given no picture of the life of these disembodied 
souls, such as is found in the Platonic myths, for there was in- 
deed little that a Stoic could say about it. 

For the living man the psyche is a 'breath', a compound of air 
and 'constructive' fire, that extends throughout his body, with 
which it is totally blended, giving life and warmth, growth and 
maintenance. But there is a part, called the higemonikon or 
centre of command, lodging in the heart,^ which is the seat of 
sensation, assent, impulse, passion, thought and reason. From 
this there extend seven breaths to the eyes, ears, mouth, nose 
and skin to convey the incoming stimuli which cause sensation, 
to the organs of speech to set them in motion, and to the sex- 
organs for the reason, it may be guessed, that they are the chan- 
nel by which life is transmitted. It would seem consistent that 
other breaths should be the cause of other movements, and this 
was Clean thes' view; but for some reason Chrysippus disagreed, 
saying that walking was due to an extension of the hegemonikon 

^Panaetius probably did not believe in any survival, and Marcus 
Aurelius tended to think that the psyche would break up like the 

^Plato had placed thought in the brain, but Zeno follows an older 
tradition. In Homer thought and emotion were in the lungs, for 
Empedocles thought was the blood round the heart. Even Aristotle 
made the heart the centre from which the psyche acts. Chrysippus 
pointed to the effect of emotion on the heart. Besides some frivolous 
arguments he observed after Zeno that speech {logos) came from the 
chest, and that reason {logos) would also be found there. This argu- 
ment would suggest that the lungs rather than the heart were the 
seat of the higemonikon, but he had an easy way with anatomy. 
He was aware that the doctors had shown that nerves ran from the 
brain, but his beUef in the primacy of the heart was not shaken: the 
brain, he said, was only an intermediary source of movement. 
(Galen, On the Views of HippocraUs and Plato. 2.5.) 



itself to the feet. Perhaps he felt that a movement originated by 
the higemonikon did not require a separate part of the psyche 
to explain it, whereas the external stimuU of sensation needed 
permanent independent parts to convey them to the centre of 
command. But if he tibought like that there seems no reason for 
maintaining a separate part of psyche to account for speech.^ 

To explain in material terms the psyche and its functions was 
an impossible imdertaking, but one which had to be attempted. 
Zeno argued that the psyche must be the factor on whose with- 
drawal from the body an animal died; an animal died when 
the breath, with which it was bom, was withdrawn; and so the 
psyche must be this breath. That breath was more than air was 
evidenced by its warmth, which showed that some fire too was 
contained in it. In the living animal this breath was 'nourished' 
by exhalations from the blood, a doctrine for which Cleanthes 
found precedent in Heraclitus. One or the other compared the 
psyche's permanence in change with that of a river, always the 
same river although its waters flow past and are ever new. 
Critics objected that this picture made it difficult to understand 
memory, for an impression made on moving water must pass 
away. And it is on memory, of course, that all the operations of 
reason are buUt. 

A question on which there is no information is how this breath 
which is the psyche is related to what an animal breathes in and 
out through its nostrils. But there is evidence about its first be- 
ginnings. Chrysippus held that while in the womb the child's 
existence was like diat of a plant — probably he thought that 
neither had any sensations — and it was therefore not under the 
control of psyche but of 'nature' {physis).^ On birth the shock 
of the cold outer air converted this physis to psyche {psychein 
means to chill), just as glowing steel is tempered by immersion 
in water. Both physis and psyche are breaths, but psyche is more 
tenuous and warmer, strange characteristics to be caused by 

^Panaetius saw this (p. 128). 

*The word physis may seem to be a chamaeleon. It is the way a 
thing grows and is organised. The physis of a man b quite different 
from that of a plant. But in some contexts the word may be re- 
stricted to mean the 'nature' of a plant; etymology is here involved, 
for a plant is a phyton. 



Sensation was supposed to occur through a contact in the 
sense-organ between the object sensed and the "breath' which 
extended from the central command-centre. The only compli- 
cations arose over the senses of sight and hearing, which per- 
ceive things at a distance. Sound was correctiy explained as a 
spherical wave in the air set in motion by the origin of the noise 
and impinging on the ear. Sight was more difficult. Chrysippus 
supposed that contact between the outer air and the breath 
that extended to the pupil oif the eye set up a state of tension in 
a conical field of air at the base of which lay the object seen. 
The pressure exerted by the object on this base resulted in a 
corresponding pressure at the cone's apex, just as pressure is 
transmitted along a stick, and so a kind of print of the object 
was transferred to the tentacle of the command centre. But this 
was not all: the air must be illuminated, if vision was to occur: 
the light mixed with it will share its tension. A further compli- 
cadon was 'that the eye was itself supposed to emit fiery rays: 
their function when it is light is not clear, unless they increased 
the air's tension; but when it is dark, they enabled the eye to see 
the darkness. They may help to explain why some people see 
better than others. 

Perception and knowledge^ 

If a philosopher is to establish any firm conclusions, if an ordi- 
nary man is to have any assurance of how to act, they must both 
start from something they know to be true. Zeno found this in 
what he called phantasia katdtiptike, or 'cognitive presentation'. 
The question whether such a thing existed was for a couple of 
centuries to be the subject of animated debate between the 
Stoics, who maintained it, and the sceptical Academy, who de- 
nied it. We must start by considering what was intended by the 

A phantasia is what happens in a percipient when something 
Ijecomes apparent'; it was described by Zeno as the 'making of 

^Many modern authors treat the Stoic theory of perception and 
knowledge as part of logic. The Stoics themselves took it to be 
psychology and so part of 'physics'. Cicero, Academica Posteriora 1.40, 
includes the theory under logic, but this is in a critical account 
derived from Antiochus, who divided philosophy on an Academic- 
Peripatetic basis. 



a print' in the psyche; Gleanthes took this Uterally, as if the im- 
print were like that of a seal on wax, but Chrysippus interpreted 
die word to mean an 'alteration' of the psyche, or rather of the 
command-centre in the psyche. Whereas one imprint will obli- 
terate another, these vague 'alterations' can persist alongside 
one another; one coiild see an analogy in the way a thing may 
become first hotter, then more solid, without losing the heat first 
acquired. We should be inclined to regard this 'appearance' as 
a mental event, associated of course with physical changes in 
the brain. For the Stoics the psyche is material, and so changes 
in it are physical; a mental event is a physical event. Let us then 
consider what happens if something in the external world 'be- 
comes apparent'. Aetius gives this as Chrysippus' view: 

A presentation {phantasia) is a happening that occurs in the 
psyche, displaying both itself and what causes it. For example 
when by vision we look on what is white, what has occurred 
in the psyche through the act of seeing is an affect, and be- 
cause of this affect we can say that there is a white object 
which affects us . . . the presentation displays itself and also 
what has caused it (4-. 12, 1). 

In other words the psyche of the percipient is aware of the 
change it has undergone, but it also perceives the external ob- 
ject : and this perception is part of the change. 

The preceding account presumes that there is an external 
object causing the presentation and revealed by it. This was not 
always maintained; the word phantasia was sometimes applied 
to dreams and hallucinations. The account would also need 
some modification if the presentation were one which arose 
not through the senses but through mental activity: for example, 
it may become apparent tiiat the sun is larger than the earth. 
This is a presentation about the external objects sim and earth 
but, although it reveals something about them, it is not directly 
caused by diem. 

Further, if we perceive an external object we may perceive it 
correctly or incorrecdy; and whereas mental activity may lead 
to the perception that the sun is larger than the earth, it has also 
led men to the false perception that the earth is larger dian the 
sun. In other words a presentation may be true or false. There 


is needed some mark by which the true may be distinguished 
from the false; what that m£u:k was will appear from the eluci- 
dation of a simile used by Zeno. 

But you deny that anyone except a wise man knows anything. 
And indeed Zeno used to show this by gesture. Holding up his 
hand, open and with fingers outstretched, he would say 'a 
presentation is like that'. Then he contracted his fingers a 
little: 'assent is like that'. TTien he closed his hand completely, 
making a fist of it, and said that that was apprehension : it was 
from this comparison that he gave the name katalepsis (grasp- 
ing, apprehension, cognition), not used before, to the thing 
in question. But when he had brought up his left hand and 
grasped his fist with it tight and hard, he would say that know- 
ledge was a thing of that sort, and possessed by none but the 
wise (Cicero, Academica Priora 2. 144). 

It appears from this that knowledge is distinguished from mere 
cognition by being permanent, unshakeable, locked in as it 
were. But the man who apprehends a thing does grasp the truth, 
for the moment at least, althoug'h his grasp may falter. He is 
right and is confident that he is right, but that belief may be 
shaken by considerations that he has not taken into account. 

Turning now to the beginning of the image, we see that pre- 
sentation is represented as purely receptive. As Sextus Empiri- 
cus puts it, it does not lie with the subject, but with the object 
that causes the presentation, that he is affected as he is. The per- 
cipient must be ready to receive; for example, he must open his 
eyes if he is to see — this corresponded to holding out a hand — 
but what he perceives depends on what is there to be perceived. 
This analysis is not applicable to presentations that do not come 
through the senses but stem from the mind. A presentation that 
the sun is eclipsed by the interposition of the moon must be 
created by the inventor of that doctrine; or a presentation that 
it is desirable to start a conspiracy to make oneself king must be 
created by the would-be conspirator. It must be confessed that 
much that was said by Stoics about presentations is properly 
applicable to sense-presentations only. But this is partially ex- 
cusable, since they held that these were basic. The mind was at 
birth like a blank sheet of paper; it had potentialities but no 



content. The first presentations it received came through the 
senses, and unless some of these could be accepted as reliable, 
what was later built on them must be unreliable too. 

After presentation there comes assent. The partial closing of 
the fingers represents a voluntary act on the part of the subject; 
and what he assents to is the presentation. Here there is a diflB- 
culty, already raised by Arcesilaus (see p. 91). A presentation is 
a physical change in the psyche; how can one assent to such a 
thing? Assent should be to a proposition; it is that which is true 
or false. This is a valid criticism of Stoic language, but perhaps 
not destructive of the meaning. A presentation reveals itself: 
that is to say a man is aware of a change in his psyche, and there 
is no question of his giving or withholding his assent to that 
awareness. But the presentation also reveals that which causes 
it; that is to say, it does not merely appear to him that he is see- 
ing, e.g. an apple; it appears to him diat there is an apple which 
he is seeing. Here there is contained something to which assent 
is applicable. The man may say 'There appears to be an apple, 
and I assent: there is an apple', or 'There appears to be an apple, 
but I do not assent: there is no apple, or there may be no 
apple'. This proposition 'there is an apple' is not identical 
with the presentation, but is in some sense included in it, and 
put before the mind by it. Hence although it may be inaccurate, 
it is psychologically intelligible to say that one assents to a 

But how is one to know that assent is correct? We must look 
at the next stage of Zeno's simile. Apprehension or cognition is 
the grasp of a 'cognitive presentation', and that was defined as 
'a presentation stamped and impressed, arising from an existent 
thing and according with the existent thing and such as would 
not arise from a non-existent'. An existent thing, moreover, was 
explained as one that gives rise to a cognitive presentation. In 
other words, there is a reciprocal relation between 'what exists' 
and cognition. If we apprehend something, it exists : if something 
exists, it can be apprehended. It is a mistake to look for any test 
by which it can be established that a presentation is cognitive. 
There are of course conditions that make this more liely or 
less likely: sobriety and a good light are more favourable to 
correct assent than drunkenness and shadow. But in the last re- 
sort the cognitive presentation is recognised by some peculiar 



quality indicated by the use of such words as 'evident', and 
'striking*. There are some presentations which are self-evidently 
true. That is what an ordinary man believes : it is unusual that 
he should doubt the truth of a presentation; normally he has 
no reservations whatever about saying that the sun is shining or 
that he is travelling in a boat or that a bull is approaching him. 
He is certain that these presentations arise from real, existing 
things and correspond to them. These cognitive presentations 
are, then, the test of truth because they provide an answer to the 
question: How do you know? For example, how do you know 
that the sun is shining? I know because I have a cognitive pre- 
sentation that it is shining. 

The account so far has passed over certain problems that 
deserve a brief mention.^ 1. Katcdeptike, the word translated 
'cognitive', means more literally either 'capable of grasping' or 
'capable of being grasped'. The evidence shows that grasping 
is something done by the percipient; but it is not clear what he 
grasps : the presentation or the external object. My own belief 
is that he does both, primarily grasping the presentation but 
more importantly apprehending thereby the object that caused 
it. 2. If one has a cognitive presentation, does one necessarily 
assent to it? Some 'young Stoics' thought that one did not, but 
there is no evidence what the view of Zeno or Chrysippus was. 
3. Cicero says that Zeno found the criterion of truth in cogni- 
tion. Some scholars have seen here a significant difference from 
Chrysippus' view that found it in the cognitive presentation. I 
do not believe this to be right. 

From the presentations that arise through sense-impressions 
there automatically follow certain other changes in the psyche. 
First memory, which is the storing away of the presentation; 
next experience, the accumulation of similar memories; this 
leads to the formation of what were called prolepseis, 'precon- 
ceptions' or 'preliminary conceptions', and from these there 
comes into being 'reason', or the capacity for reasoning, and 
this in its turn will give rise to rational presentations. Reason is 
recognisable in a child of seven and is fully developed by the 
age of fourteen. It is probably reason that allows man to acquire 
new conceptions on the basis of those that have come through 

'See A. A. Long (ed.). Problems in Stoicism, pp. 13-18. 



his sensations. Thus from his conception of 'man' he may con- 
ceive 'dwarf' and 'giant' and 'man with no hands' by the pro- 
cesses of diminution, magnification, and deprivation. From 
his experience of separate objects or of successive events he can 
conceive 'space' and 'time'. 

The details of all this development from the primary presen- 
tations are not dealt with in our sources, and it may be that the 
Stoics had little success in working them out. There is a difficult 
step from 'preconceptions', which must be generalising ideas 
about things we have seen, e.g. 'man is a thing that is two-footed, 
two-armed, featherless, etc., etc.', to the capacity for reasoning; 
but the same hiatus is found in Aristotle. There is also a puzzle 
about the formation of moral concepts. Diogenes Laertius re- 
ports that according to the Stoics 'there is a natural conceiving 
of something just and good'. Since the mind is at birth a blank 
sheet of paper, this conception must be stimulated by sense- 
experience, although it would not arise unless a man's nature 
were such that he is equipped to make the inference from his 
observations. The process imagined must not be unlike that by 
which the Platonist proceeds from observation of many beauti- 
ful things to conceiving the Form of Beauty. Several passages 
show that, for the Stoic, acquaintance with the primarily natural 
things that men call 'good' and with actions that men call 'just' 
causes the mind to reach by analogy the conceptions to which 
Zeno had attached the words (Cicero, De Finibus 3.33, Seneca, 
Letters 120.4, Polybius 6.6). 

To recapitulate, the Stoic theory of knowledge posits a pro- 
cess by which various mental operations build a structure upon 
data provided by the presentations that the senses give. Reliable 
presentations are recognisable and any man is therefore capable 
of grasping the truth. But such grasp is not knowledge in the 
full sense of the word, since he may let it slip, overcome per- 
haps by other conclusions based on unrehable presentations or 
faulty operations of the mind. True knowledge is to be seen as 
an interlocking structure in which all the members are sound 
and support one another. Although this outline of the Stoic 
system is clear, the details are, owing to lack of evidence, ob- 
scure. In particular one would like to know more of the way in 
which intellectual presentations were treated. Epictetus speaks 
of a presentation 'that the mysteries were introduced to improve 


life' {Discourses, 3.21.15): this will in his opinon be true, but will 
it be immediately recognisable as true, or only through a pro- 
cess of argument? Whatever the answer, the basis of the whole 
system is to be found in the primary presentations given by the 
senses. It was therefore against these that the main attack of the 
Academy was directed. 

The Academy was turned to scepticism by Arcesilaus, a 
younger contemporary of Zeno; but the most influential figure 
was Cameades who, in the first half of the second century bc, 
advanced the attractive view that although there was no cer- 
tainty, there might be probability. At the same time he showed 
by his treatment of particular problems how difficult it was to 
attain even probability. But the question fundamentally at issue 
between the Stoics and the sceptical Academy was whether 
there were any cognitive presentations; that is whether there 
was any true presentation of such a nature that an identical one 
could not arise which was false, either because it misrepresented 
the thing which caused it or because it represented as real some- 
thing that was non-existent. The battle was fought on the level 
of sense-presentations, from which all the illustrations were 

The meaning of 'being' 

There are some questions which we might regard as belonging 
to metaphysics, as concerned with the meaning of the verb 'to 
be'. For Stoics metaphysics was not a distinct part of philosophy, 
and its subject matter was seen as falling to the realm of physics. 
It will therefore be justifiable to end this account of Stoic physics 
with a brief treatment of these questions. 

One oif the problems that exercised philosophers of the fourth 
century bc was what sort of things could properly be said to 
'be', oil the one side were those who maintained that material 
entities were the only things that 'are'; on the other Plato urged 
that no material thing 'really is', because it is always changing 
at every moment and 'to be' implies stability. But in his late dia- 
logue the Sophist (247 E) he suggests that a mark of 'being' was 
the capacity to act or to be acted upon. This was accepted by 
the Stoics who, however, also thought that only what was cor- 
poreal had this capacity. Plato had used his definition to make 
the materialist admit that soul (psyche, see p. 82) and wisdom 



and justice "were'. This caused the Stoics no embarrassment. 
Psyche was for them a corporeal thing, and so in a sense were 
wisdom and justice. For if it was said that wisdom or justice 
caused a man to perform such-and-such an action, what was 
meant thereby was not some abstraction but something in him 
that might be called his wisdom or his justice. These were states 
of his psyche, physical conditions, and therefore as corporeal as 
it was itself. Only body, they believed, could act upon body, and 
what was not body could not be acted upon. 

If 'being' is defined in this way, it can be predicated only of 
material things, although that class will include much that we 
do not usually think of as material, e.g. qualities of mind and 
diaracter possessed by individuals. But there are many imma- 
terial objects of thought which it would be absurd to suppose 
absolutely non-existent. Some other word than 'be' to indicate 
their manner of existence would have been useful, but none was 
exclusively decided upon. The most important of these imma- 
terial things are time, space, place and void, and the meaning 
of words and sentences (see p. 96). None of these can either act 
upon anything else nor be acted upon. A meaning can of course 
act if it is embodied by being spoken or written down or believed 
(for that implies a physical change in the man who believes it), 
but per se it is inert. 

Time and void are both continua and ihe fonner is the more 
interesting. Time, said Zeno, is the interval of movement or 
change. That may be understood as follows. Any change is 
from a situation at an instant A, to a situation at an instant B; 
the interval between those instants is time. It is therefore an 
accompaniment of change, not something with an independent 
being of its own. Ghrysippus modified Zeno's definition by say- 
ing that time was the interval of the change of the world. Tliis 
had the advantage of showing tihat time, like the world, had 
neither beginning nor end and of providing a unified single time 
common to all men. Ghrysippus saw also that 'now' had, strictly 
speaking, no extension but meant the limit between past and 
future time. Loosely, however, it was used to cover a period, 
some of which was past and some yet to come, a period without 
any definite boundaries. This period is what we mean by 'the 
present time', constituted of some past time and some future 
time. Different verbs were used to distinguish the modes of exis- 



tence of present time on the one hand and past and future on 
the other. Present time was feU to be more real, just because it is 
present, whereas the others are no longer or not yet present. 
The same two verbs were used to mark the difference between 
true and false propositions, e.g. between 'I am sitting* when I 
am sitting and the same proposition when I have risen to my 
feet. But the distinction does not solve the problems to which 
it calls attention. A proposition is the meaning of a set of words 
and that meaning's existence is independent of its truth-value. 
The Stoics were probably misled by the common Greek failure 
to disentangle 'what is' and 'what is true'. 

The 'categories' 

There are four terms 1. substrate, 2. qualified thing (poion), 3. 
thing in a certain state {pos echon), 4. thing in a certain relative 
state (pros ti pos echon), which occur from time to time in Stoic 
literature. The only systematic treatments to survive that asso- 
ciate them are in Plotinus and in later Peripatetic commenta- 
tors, anxious to show this to have been an absurd doctrine, 
inferior to that of the ten Aristotelian categories. It is not cer- 
tain that the Stoics used the word categories of their terms, and 
there can be no presumption that they served the same purpose 
as the Aristotelian categories. Plotinus calls them 'classes of what 
is', but although they all refer to things that 'are', i.e. are cor- 
poreal substances, the classification, if it is one, does not seem 
to be of ways in which they 'are'. 

Any object must be a qualified thing, and its qualities are 
material, being breaths passing through its substance, in other 
words it is a combination of substrate and qualities. A man's 
qualities are partly general and make him a man, and partly 
individual and make him the particular man he is. A similar 
division can be made with regard to any object; it is qualified 
generally as a ship, a dove, or a stone, and individually as a par- 
ticular ship, dove or stone. The Stoics held that no two objects 
were identical, since the same individual quality could not 
attach to two substances. Besides the qualities that make him a 
htmian being, a man must at any moment be in certain states, 
sleeping or waking, standing or walking, angry or calm, and so 
on. Even lifeless objects have such shifting states; a stone may 
be hot or cold. As these come and go, there must be physical 



changes in the subject. But there are other states which are rela- 
tive to external things, and these come and go without neces- 
sarily involving a physical change in the subject. For example, 
a man who is taller than his son is in a relative state, which can 
be ended without any change in him by the growth of his son. 
But the relative state of the son, who is shorter than his father, 
may be altered by a change in himself, as he grows. 

The most frequently used of these terms seems to be 'in a 
certain state'. All functions of the psyche, e.g. presentation, 
assent, memory, knowledge, each different passion or virtue 
could be described as 'the psyche in a certain state', all being 
understood as various physical conformations of the material 
psyche. A man's actions can similarly all be described by saying 
that he is 'in a certain state'. All qualities also are due to the 
presence in an object of a 'breath in a certain state', that state 
being different for each different quality. 

An instance of the use of the distinction between the terms is 
provided by Ghrysippus' treatment of Aristo's position that one 
and the same virtue was given different names according to the 
fields in which it was employed (see p. 42). He argued that the 
various virtues differed by being qualified things, i.e. each had 
its own permanent quality, not by being in relative states, i.e. 
given their distinctive names for different external relations not 
for different internal constitution. It is noteworthy that the 
virtue, although an individually qualified thing, is also 'breath 
in a certain state'. The virtue itself is unchanging, but the breath 
that constitutes it is not always in that state which is virtue. Be- 
fore a man becomes virtuous that breath must be in some other 


The System : Logic 

Diogenes Laertius lists 311 volumes by Chrysippus on logic, 
more than a third of his total writing. Little will however be said 
here on Stoic logic, because it had a limited influence in an- 
tiquity and surviving information is fragmentary. Nevertheless 
it clearly was both original and important; moreover the field 
covered was wider than that suggested by the modern word 
'logic'. Logic for the Stoics, being the science of logos, which 
means both speech and reason, was concerned to examine not 
only the validity of various forms of reasoning and the rela- 
tion of words to things, but also the structure of language. Even 
rhetoric was not left wholly unconsidered, being regarded as 
an expanded form of 'dialectic', or the science of arguing cor- 
rectly. But this view did not encourage giving it attention: 
dialectic was the essential subject of study. Cleanthes wrote an 
Art of Rhetoric, and so did Chrysippus, but according to Cicero, 
'if anyone should want to be struck dumb, he should read 
nothing else'. The first object of the practitioner of oratory, such 
as Cicero, was to move and persuade his audience; he might 
argue logically, but that was only one of his tools. 

Although both Zeno and Cleanthes wrote something on 
logic, it was Chrysippus who systematically developed the 
subject. It is likely enough that we should often be impatient 
with his attempts, if we had them, to deal with logical puzzles 
and he seems to have made some mistakes that look elementary 
today, yet his work contained many anticipations of the logical 
discoveries of the last century and can still suggest interesting 

Aristotle, although he regarded individual things as primary 
substance, had been concerned mainly with the relations be- 
tween imiversal terms, such as are for him the prime concern 
of science. 'If all A is B, and all B is C, then all A is C, is his 
fundamental syllogism; in this sentence all three variables (A, 
B, and C) must be universals: typical instances are 'king', 'man', 
and 'mortal'; if they are substituted for the variables, we have 



as a specimen of this kind of syUogism 'if all kings are men and 
all men are mortal, then all kings are mortal'. For the Stoics 
the only thing that 'exists' is the individual: the universal is 
nothing but a mental construct. Accordingly they developed 
a logic that would treat statements about individual things. It 
began with a triple distinction between 1, the spoken word, 
which is material, being a configuration of £ur, and significant; 
2, what it signifies, which is something inunaterial, being 'what 
it says' or 'what it means'; 3, the material reality to which the 
meaning refers. Sextus gives as an example the word 'Dion' 
{Against the Dogmatists, viii. 12), but the point is clearer if we 
take a sentence such as 'Dion is running'. It is obvious that the 
meaning of the words (which will themselves vary according to 
the language of the speaker), is not to be confused with the 
materisd reaUty of a running Dion. For the words may both be 
uttered and have their meaning although Dion is sitting down. 
In this sentence the meaning (lekton), or to use the name of 
this particular kind of meaning, the proptosition {axioma), is 
true or false : true if Dion is running when the words are uttered, 
false if he is not. But the words may have meanings that are 
not true or false: for example, the meaning of a question, a 
command, or a wish is neither true nor false. 'Is Dion running?' 
and 'Run, Dion' both mean something, but not anything that 
can be confirmed or denied. Yet both phrases also refer to a 
material event, running by Dion. It is not known whether 
any Stoics found a difficulty in the fact that the event may not 
occur, but be no more than something that is imagined. 

Another possible difficulty is that men sometimes utter sen- 
tences that are generalisations and do not appear to refer to 
material realities, e.g. 'two and two make four'. A way out is 
provided by the Stoic treatment of definition. 'Man is a mortal 
rational animal' can be restated as 'If any X is a man, that X 
is a mortal rational animal'; thus what appeared to be a pro- 
position about a imiversal 'man' becomes a proposition about 
the material individual X (Sextus, Against the Dogmatists, 
xi. 8). Moreover when we say that X is mortal, by 'mortal' we 
mean that he has a bodily constitution (his own particular con- 
stitution) incapable of permanent survival. Similarly '2+2=4' 
can be restated as 'If any X is two things and any Y is two 
things, then X and Y are four diings'. 



The Stoic recognition of meaning as an independent element 
seems sound. Aristotle had supposed that meaning was identical 
with thought; what words signify is a thought in the mind of 
the speaker. Specious though this is, it cannot be right, since 
by a slip of the tongue a man may utter words the meaning 
of which has never been entertained in his mind. 'Corinth 
lies east of Athens' has a meaning which may have been com- 
pletely absent from the mind of the man who utters those 
words while intending to say "Corinth lies west of Athens'. 

The primacy of the individual appears again in the Stoic 
treatment of syllogism. Although they did sometimes use the 
Aristotelian forms of syllogism (e.g. Chrysippus quoted by 
Plutarch, M or alia, 1041 A), since philosophers cannot avoid 
dealing in generalisations and the use of universal terms, they 
investigated a different type oif inference, which connected not 
terms but propositions. Propositions need not of course con- 
cern individual material realities, but it is significant that those 
used by the Stoics to give instances of valid inference are of 
that kind, e.g. 'the sun is shining", 'it is day'. So a typical Stoic 
syllogism is: 'if the sun is shining, it is dayj but the sun is 
shining; therefore it is day". The relation is one of die two 
propositions. Although the Peripatetics were aware of such 
syllogisms they had little interest in them. Only in the nine- 
teendi century was their importance appreciated by logicians, 
who had no knowledge of their Stoic forerunners. Chrysippus 
recognised five basic forms; each linked a pair of propositions, 
which he represented by the variables 'the first', 'the second'. 
Using the more convenient modem symbols p and q, they may 
be set out as follows : 

1. Up, q. But p. :. q. 

2. lip, q. Bui not q. .'. Not p. 

3. Not both p and q. But p. :. Not q. 

4. Either p or q. But p. .'. Not q. 

5. Either p or q. But not p. .'. q. 

These forms were called 'undemonstrated', because their vali- 
dity cannot be proved, except in so far as it cannot be denied 
without breaking the law of contradiction. That they are vjilid 
is immediately apprehended. Chrysippus was aware that forms 
1 and 2 can be deduced from form 3 if its first premise takes 



the shape 'not both p and not q\ The object of his classifi- 
cation therefore was not the theoretical one of establishing a 
minimum basis for argument, but the practical one of listing 
schemes of inference that are accepted at sight as being valid. 
He dien went on to pay much attention to establishing other 
more complicated patterns of inference, the validity of which 
could be proved by the assumption of one of the undemon- 
strated forms. Ancient writers who report this thought it 
unprofitable pedantry and give little information about his 

There are many examples to show that the Stoics made 
practical use of these syllogisms which, incidentally, have the 
advantage of acconmiodating verbs of all kinds, whereas the 
Aristotelian variety admits only the copula that joins a pre- 
dicate to a subject. Cicero, for instance, quotes an argument 
used by Chrysippus and others. 

If (a) gods exist and {b) do not foretell the future, either (r) 
they do not love us, or {d) they do not know what will hap- 
pen, or («) they do not think it would profit us to know or 
(/) diey do not think that it would accord with their dignity 
to tell us, or {g) they are unable to tell us. But it is not true 
that they do not love us, nor that they do not know what 
will happen, etc. [A reason is given for rejecting each alter- 
native.] Therefore it is not true that the gods exist and do 
not foretell the future. But the gods exist. Therefore they 
foretell the future. {On Divination 1.82.) 

Here there is a combination of forms 2 and 3, which can be set 
out schematically as follows: 

If a+6, either c oi d or e or f or g. But not cordoieoif 
or g. :. Not both a and b. But a. /, Not b. 

Clearly these forms of syllogism would be of no practical 
importance without an assurance of the truth of their pre- 
mises. Some attention was paid to this problem, but again 
information is scanty. The difficulty lies in the major premise, 
which is a compound proposition. How is it to be known 
whether 'If p,q' or 'Either p or q' is true? Sometimes there may 



be a logical necessity that establishes the truth of such propo- 
sitions, but often they are of a sort exemplified by 'If this 
woman has milk in her breasts, she has borne a child', or 'If this 
man has a wound in his heart, he will die'. If it is asked how 
the truth of either of these propositions can be known, the 
answer must be that it is known by induction. To take the first 
of them, experience records that innumerable women with 
milk have previously borne children and that no woman with 
milk has not borne a child. The fact that this woman has milk 
becomes for the Stoics a sign that this woman has previously 
had a child. This is certainly the way in which men think. 

Many later writers regarded the Stoic logic as a rival to 
Aristotelian and denigrated it with little attempt to understand 
it. This was a mistake; it is in the main not an alternative but 
a complement, and the propositional syllogism is today recog- 
nised as being logically prior to the syllogism of terms. But 
although Stoic logic can be properly contrasted with that of 
Aristotle, there is little evidence that he exercised any import- 
ant influence on its development. Nowhere can Chrysippus be 
detected arguing against Peripatetic views j rather he seems to 
ignore them. On the other hand he often pursues problems 
that had exercised the Megarian logicians, including problems 
of possibility and necessity, and ancient sources represent him 
as endeavouring to correct these predecessors. The meagre 
accounts of that school use the Stoic technical terms, which 
often differ from those used by Aristotle. This may mean only 
that those accounts come through Stoic intermediaries, but 
there is at least a chance, if not a probability, that the Stoics 
adopted them from the Megarians; in either case it is evidence 
of their interest in die work of that school. 

Since 'meanings' can be identified only through the words 
that indicate them, there was a tendency to confuse the exami- 
nation of lekta with that of speech. This had a happy result 
in the development of grammatical analysis.^ The recognition 
and naming of the parts of speech, the cases of nouns, and the 
tenses of the verb was largely a Stoic achievement, adopted by 
Crates of Mallos (early second century bg) and after him with 

'On Stoic grammar see R. H. Robins, Ancient and Medieval 
Grammatical Theory (London, 1951) pp. 25-36. 



slight modifications by succeeding grammarians. Unfortunately 
the Stoics were unable to achieve the difficult feat of separating 
grammatical analysis, which concerns the forms of words and 
their possible relations, from the analysis of meaning. Thus 
they distinguished as separate parts of speech proper names 
and common nouns, a distinction of meaning not of grammar. 


Fate and Free Will, Providence and Evil 

Belief in an omnipotent Fate, divine and providential, is hard 
to combine with recognising the existence of evil, whether that 
means wickedness or what the ordinary man calls bad, for 
example pain, disease, war and famine. Both critics and de- 
fenders of Stoicism tended to confuse the two kinds of evil, 
and they had the excuse that the second kind is often the result 
of wickedness. Nevertheless the problems presented by the 
existence of moral badness in an order created by God are not 
the same as those which arise from the presence of what is in it- 
self unwelcome, but not morally evil. It is desirable therefore to 
keep the two kinds apart. 

In his Hymn to Zeus, Cleanthes declared that Zeus wills 
everything except die actions of bad men, but that these are 
fitted by him into his scheme. It is self-taught folly that causes 
wicked acts. The bad man appears as an independent origina- 
tor of some happenings which God, who had no hand in devis- 
ing them, is clever enough to turn to serve his purposes. Allur- 
ing though such a view may be, it is not easy to hold in con- 
junction with the dogma that God is the immanent determining 
element in all physical objects, for these must include the 
wicked man and his mind. Whether Cleanthes tried to defend 
the position we do not know, but Chrysippus saw the difficulty 
and tried to meet it. On the one hand, according to him, 
everything that happens is fated, i.e. predetermined and ac- 
cording to the plan of the universe. In Book I of On Nature he 

Since the management o!f all there is directs things in this 
way, it is necessary that we should be as we are, whatever that 
may be, whether we are sick, contrary to our own natural 
condition, or maimed, or have become scholarly or artistic 
. . . consistently with this we shall speak in the same way 
about our virtue and our wickedness and in general about 
our crafts or lack of them ... for no detail, not even the 



smallest, can happen otherwise than in accordance with 
universal nature and her plan. 

Plutarch, who quotes this (Mordia 1049 F), adds: 'that uni- 
versal nature and nature's plan are Fate and Providence and 
Zeus, is known even in the antipodes'. 

On the other hand, the actions of men are 'attributable to 
them'. At first sight this looks like allowing them free will, 
inconsistently with the complete determinism of the passage 
just quoted.. But this is not so, if to say that an action is done 
of man's free will means that he could have chosen not to do 
that action. An 'attributable' action is something different. 
Ghrysippus illustrated his position by comparing what happens 
when someone gives a push to a cylinder at rest at the top of a 
slope. It rolls down, but the cause of its rolling is not merely the 
push: that is an 'antecedent' cause. The determining cause is 
the roundness of the cylinder, for the same antecedent cause 
applied to a cube would not set it going; the cube's squareness 
would be the determining cause of its stability. Similarly with 
a man: the exterior world gives rise to presentations, but the 
reaction to any presentation depends on die condition of the 
man's pysche. The presentation is the antecedent cause of his 
action, but since the determining cause is to be found in his 
psyche, the action is attributable to him. 

But to say that the action is attributable to the man is not 
to say that he could have acted otherwise. The rolling of the 
cylinder is attributable to its roundness, but the cylinder can- 
not do anything but roll. To suppose that the condition of a 
man's psyche similarly determines his reaction to external 
circumstances is less absurd than might appear without re- 
flection. A teacher of mathematics, for example, who knows 
that the side and diagonal of a rectangle are incommensur- 
able, will teach that to his pupils, if the occasion arises; he will 
not try to show them to be commensurable. But once it is ad- 
mitted that some actions are predetermined by the 'make-up' 
of the person who performs tfiem, it is difficult to argue that 
any are not so determined. Inability to predict whether the 
mathematician will after school watch television, may be 
due to nothing more than an inadequate knowledge of his 



If a man's action is determined, as Chrysippus held, in this 
way, how did the condition of his psyche arise? Aristotle, recog- 
nising that an agent often cannot act in any other way than he 
does, answered that he had earlier had a real choice, but by 
exercising it repeatedly in the same way had established a pat- 
tern from which he could no longer break out. This line was 
not open to Chrysippus. Although past decisions and past ac- 
tions must have brought about the present state of the psyche, 
those past decisions were themselves determined by the state 
of the psyche at the relevant times. All these decisions were 
attributable to the man, and in a sense voluntarily undertaken; 
but he was never in a position when he could in fact have taken 
any other decision than the one he did take. It follows that in 
the last analysis a man's character is formed not by any choice 
between open alternatives, but by his environment and the im- 
pressions made on him by the external world. These are all due 
to Fate, which therefore determines what he is. When it is said 
that an action is attributable to its doer, that means that it is 
his action, it could not occur without his decision, or in the Stoic 
terminology widiout his assent to a presentation and the conse- 
quent impulse to act. These things are the determining cause, 
but they are themselves determined. 

It has been maintained that Chrysippus was attempting to 
combine two things that are logically inconsistent, a belief in 
rigorous determinism and the truth of 'the psychological ex- 
perience of freedom in diought and action'. In the Chrysippean 
fragments we have, there is no talk of this experience, although 
Zeno's contemporary Epicurus had been very much aware of 
it. Chrysippus seems rather to have been concerned to main- 
tain the principle that man must accept the responsibility for 
his actions. Alexander of Aphrodisias was perhaps drawing on 
Chrysippus when he gave this as a Stoic argument: 

If those things are attributable to us of which we can do the 
opposite, and if praise, blame, encouragement and discourage- 
ment, penalties and honours attach to such things, then to 
be wise and to possess virtues will not be attributable to 
those who possess them, because they are not capable of hav- 
ing the opposite vices; similarly the vices will not be attri- 
butable to wicked men, for it is not in their power to cease 



being wicked. But it is very odd to deny that our virtues 
and vices are attributable to us, and to say that we should 
not be praised or blamed for them (De Fato, c. 26). 

Ghrysippus was concerned to support not free will but moral 
responsibility. In a sense man's actions are in his power, since 
he can do them, but it is not in his power not to do them. Yet 
he is to be praised for acting rightly and blamed if he acts 

This is a positdon that many people find it impossible to 
accept, feeling that if a man's character and actions are finally 
determined by Fate, he cannot be held responsible for them, that 
is to say he is not morally responsible and cannot be blamed 
for them. Yet although there were Greeks who took this view 
of the problem, it was by no means universally held. The 
chorus in Aeschylus' Agamemnon speaks of Zeus 'responsible 
for all things, worker of all things' and ask 'what of these hap- 
penings was not ordained by the gods?' (1485-8), but a few 
lines later demand of Glytaemnestra 'who will testify that you 
are not resp)onsible for this murder?' A similar attitude was re- 
quired of the Stoic. The fact that he could not help acting 
as he did in no way diminished the fact that it was he who 
so acted. 

Critics of the Stoic scheme asked why we should give people 
advice, reproof, exhortation and punishment, if their actions 
were pre-determined. This was a particular case of a more 
general argument, known as the Argimient for Inaction. If 
future events are already determined, they will occur what- 
ever one does; it is therefore unnecessary to do anything. As 
an illustration opponents of Stoicism argued as follows. If it 
is fated that you will recover from your disease, you will re- 
cover whether you call in a doctor or not; there is therefore no 
point in calling in a doctor. Ghrysippus replied that many events 
are necessarily associated with odier events; for example, the 
birth of a child cannot occur wthout the previous intercourse 
of its parents. If the birth is fated, the intercourse must be fated 
along with it. Similarly recovery from a disease may be im- 
possible without medical help. So, if your recovery is fated, it 
must also be fated that you call in a doctor. 

Fate then, is the ultimate cause of all wickedness, and Fate 


is also Providence, at least in Chrysippus' eyes. Gleanthes is 
reported to have held that some things that were fated were 
not providential, but this was never orthodox. How can a good 
God be the cause of evil? Chrysippus attempted a justification 
in the fourth book of his work On Providence : 

Nothing is more foolish than the opinion of those persons 
who think that there could have been good things without 
there being bad things at the same time. Since good things 
and bad are opposites, they must be set against one another 
and as it were buttress one another. Of two opposites neither 
exists without the other. How could there be any concep- 
tion of justice unless it is an absence of injustice? How could 
bravery be understood except by the juxtaposition of cowar- 
dice, or self-control except by that of licence? How could 
there be good sense without folly? Why do these foolish men 
not demand that diere should be truth and no falsehood? 

This aipiment rests on the principle that if there are two oppo- 
sites, both must exist. Hence there must be bad things, if there 
are to be good. The existence of good things is to be desired, 
and caimot be realised without bad. 

An ad hominem reply to this would be as follows: you, 
Chrysippus, say that there are no good men and therefore no 
good actions in the contemporary world; any good men there 
have been lived in die past. Hence good and bad need not 
exist simultaneously, the principle of coexistence of opposites 
would be satisfied if there had been one bad man in the past 
and all men today were good. Why is the world not arranged 
like that, but the other way round: a multitude of real bad 
men, balanced by a few dead good ones? Is this providential? 
But more generally the principle of the coexistence of opposites 
needs examination. Chrysippus was right in saying that there 
cannot be truth without there being falsehood; but that does 
not mean that there cannot be a man who believes a particular 
truth unless there is another who believes the corresponding 
falsehood. The truth that 2 + 2=4 implies the falsehood of 
2+2=5; it does not imply that anyone entertains that false 
proposition. Similarly in one sense justice implies injustice; 
if you know what justice is, you also know what injustice is. 



But the fact that some men are just or brave does not in itself 
imply that there are others who are unjust or cowardly. There 
is no logical reason why all men should not be virtuous, any 
more than there is any logical reason why they should not all 
be healthy or musically gifted. 

But is there some practical reason? If virtue depends on 
rig'ht thinking, or the correct use of reason, which is not formed 
before the age of fourteen and which after its fonnation re- 
quires long exercise before it can be used correctly, every man 
must be bad before he can be good. Even if this is true of 
human reason as it is, why on Stoic principles should it be 
necessary for reason to function incorrectly at all? The expla- 
nation given was that the child inevitably accepted certain 
falsehoods as true. From the first he liked pleasure and dis- 
liked pain; this lured him into falsely believing the former to 
be good, the latter bad. He was also surrounded by elders who 
were always praising riches, glory, and so on as good and con- 
demning their opposites as bad. He inevitably accepted these 
current opinions, and so his reason operated from false pre- 
mises, and was therefore necessarily perverted. Even as an 
account of what in fact happens this is inadequate, because 
children brought up in the same environment ^ow very dif- 
fering degrees of perversion; it will not serve as a defence of 
Providence, since it does not explain why the general run of 
popular opinion is so wrong; if a few men can arrive at the 
truth, why cannot all? Some Stoics said that Providence was 
not to be blamed: Providence gave men reason, a necessary 
tool if they were to become good, but reason could also be 
used for bad ends. Given to be used well, it could be perverted 
to commit crimes. Here is an attempt to ascribe autonomous 
action to the human being: he does What he wants, not what 
God wants. But this, as has been seen, is not a position that 
could be occupied by a Stoic if he were to remain consistent 
with his other doctrines. Even if it is allowed, there is another 
difficulty, put by Cicero's Cotta, when he addresses God as 
follows: "You say that the fault lies in man's defects; you 
should have given them a type of reason that excluded defect 
and fault.' {Nature of the Gods 3. 76.) 

It was easier to explain the existence of what are normally 
called evils, but were not given that name by the Stoics, since 



they were not morally evil. Chrysippus could see in natural 
disasters the hand of God, punishing the wicked. Plutarch re- 
ports that he quoted Hesiod, 

On them from Heav'n Cronus' son drove a great calamity, 
A famine and a plague : and the people perish. 

and said that the gods do this so that when the bad men are 
punished, the others will see them as examples and be less in- 
clined to act in their manner. Throughout the ages this has 
been a popular explanation of natural calamities in a world 
supposed to be divinely ruled: yet there is no evidence that 
famine hits the wicked more than the innocent, and in fact 
since they will hoard and steal they probably suffer less. 
Chrysippus could have argued that while the hunger of the 
guilty is a punishment and a warning, that of the innocent 
serves another purpose, providing them with an opportunity 
of acting as they should, with patience, self-sacrifice, and accep- 
tance of their fate. He is not known to have made this defence, 
but it would fit other statements to the effect that things appar- 
ently disadvantageous were intended as a stimulus to virtue. 
Destructive wild animals served the purpose of stimulating 
bravery among the hunters. Even mice and bed-bugs had their 
use, the former to encourage tidiness and the latter to dis- 
courage slothful lying abed. 

War, said Chrysippus, checked over-population; and it could 
indeed be argued that it was the lesser evil of the two. But there 
is a criticism near to hand. Given over-population, a war or a 
plague might serve a purpose, but why should a benevolent 
God have caused these excessive births in the first place? 

The sufferings which sometimes afflicted men who were in- 
nocent according to ordinary ways of thought were something 
of an embarrassment; there is a natural repugnance to attribut- 
ing them to Providence. Perhaps the most satisfactory answer 
was to be given by Seneca. After quoting a saying of his con- 
temporary Demetrius, a Cynic: 'No one seems to me more 
miserable than the man who has not been touched by adver- 
sity' he continued: 'indeed he has not been allowed to test 
himself; if everything has gone as he could wish or even better 
than he wished, the gods have had a low opinion of him; he 



has not been thought to deserve an occasional victory over ill- 
fortune . . . God hiirdens, examines and trains those he loves 
. . . Why does God visit bad health and loss of those dear to 
them and other troubles on die best of mankind? Because in 
the army the most dangerous tasks are assigned to the bravest 
soldiers . . . No one who goes out on a dangerous mission says 
"the commander has treated me badly" but "he has judged me 
well". In the same way those who are ordered to suffer what 
would cause the fearful and cowardly to weep should say, "God 
has found us worthy men on whom to try what human nature 
can bear".' {On Providence IV.) 

It 'is unfortunate that Chrysippus did not confine himself 
to this line. On some occasion he suggested that the govern- 
ment of liie world might be like that of a large household, 
where trifles may be overlooked, and on another that there 
were evil demons, whose function Was to punish the wicked, 
but who might get out of hand to afflict the innocent. Such 
ideas, based on popular concepts, are plainly inconsistent with 
fundamental Stoic views, and should be regarded as aberrations 
rather than integral parts of his philosophy. Yet it was a weak- 
ness in Chrysippus that he grasped thus readily at handy ex- 
cuses without facing their implications. 


Personalities of the Earlier Stoa 

In this chapter an attempt is made to characterise the leading 
figures of the so-called Old Stoa, relating them if possible to 
the society in which they lived. One interesting problem, which 
unfortunately admits of no clear answer, is the financial posi- 
tion of teachers and pupils. The latter probably included some 
poor men as well as prosperous onesj the satirist Timon spoke 
of 'dirty naked creatures' among Zeno's following and it may 
be guessed their condition was due to poverty rather than 
choice. Certainly Gleanthes was without means and when he 
became head 6i the school, he must have been supported by 
gifts from his admirers or fees from his pupils. Chrysippus too 
is said to have taken fees. There is nothing to show whether the 
same was true of his successors. Panaetius and Posidonius are 
the first eminent Stoics known to have been rich men. 

Although the columns erected at the expense of the Athenian 
state to honour the dead Zeno testified to his good influence 
on the young, who must have been predominantly Adienians, 
his recorded pupils all came from other cities, evidence of the 
attraction of Athens as an intellectual centre. They included 
Aristo from Chios, whose simplified version of his master's 
teaching has been mentioned (p. 38); Herillus from Carthage, 
who is said to have been a brief but powerful writer, critical 
of Zeno^; Dionysixis from Heraclea on the Black Sea, a poet, 
who became notorious because when severe ophthalmia con- 
vinced him that it was wrong to deny pain to be an evil, he 
abandoned Stoicism in favour ctf hedonism; Persaeus from 
Citiiun, Philonides from Thebes, Sphaerus from the Bosporus, 
all men who went to the courts of kings (see p. 140); Callippus 
from Corinth, Posidonius from Alexandria, Athenodorus from 
Soli, Zeno from Sidon. 

More important than any of these was Cleanthes, who came 
from Assos some 30 miles south of Troy. It was a town where 
*His view that the end to be pursued was knowledge is unsympa- 
thetically reported, and cannot be profitably discussed. 



the Platonists Erastus and Goriscus had worked and Aristode 
had spent two years. Cleanthes laboured by night as a drawer of 
water to support himself and to be free to hear Zeno by day. 
Altihough he is said to have had a slow mind, and the fragments 
suggest a lack of philosophical acuteness, he had merits which 
explain why Zeno chose him as his successor. He was sincere 
in his devotion to the new doctrines and he wrote easily in a 
pleasing and simple way. His ethical teaching was illustrated 
by vivid similes and instances, as when, to attack the Epi- 
cureans, he would tell his audience to imagine a painting 
where Pleasure sat on a throne beautifully clad and carrying 
the insignia of royalty; the Virtues were at her side as serving- 
maids, with no other duties than to minister to her and whisper 
in her ear that she should avoid any imprudent act which 
might give offence or be the source 6i pain: 'We Virtues were 
bom to be your slaves; that is our only function.' 

Nine of die fragments — almost the only ones to preserve 
his own wording — are in competent verse, a form which can 
make memorable and attractive the thoughts expressed. It may 
be guessed that passages in metre were inserted into his prose 
works (df. Seneca, Letters 108. 9-10). He said that although 
philosophic thought could sufficiently explain things divine as 
well as human, prose did not possess phrases to go with divine 
greatness; but metre and tune and rhythm matched the truth 
to be found in the consideration of the divine. His famous 
Hymn to Zeus expresses the exaltation he felt as he recognised 
God's omnipotence and his own kinship to this marvellous 

Of Gods most glorious, known by many names. 
Power supreme, O Lord of Nature's changes. 
Law-giving pilot of the Universe, 
I hail Thee, Zeus, with whom there is no man 
Forbidden converse : we are of Thy race ; 
Of all the beasts that live and walk the earth 
Only we have a semblance of Thy Reason : 
So shall I ever hymn Thee and Thy power. 

This ordered Universe, wheeling round Earth, 
Obeys Thee, whereso-e'er Thou dost lead it, 



Thy willing subject: such is the tool 

Of Thy imconquered hand, the double-edged 

Firm flash of the ever-living lightning, 

Beneath whose stroke all Nature takes its course. 

Thereby Thou dost direct that common plan 

That finds its way through all things, widi the lamps 

Of Heaven mingled, great and small alike; 

Thereby Thou art so great, thereby supreme. 

Eternal, universal King. No deed 

On earth is done apart from Thee, O God, 

Nor in the aetherial Heaven, nor the sea. 

Save only what the folly of evil men 

Self-taught performs. But yet Thy skill it is 

To make the crooked straight, disorder order; 

To Thee unwelcome things are welcome yet; 

All good and evil "Diou hast joined to make 

One whole, one plan, eternal and complete. 

All wicked men lead lives in flight from it. 

Wretches, who hunger after acquisition 

Of things thought good, and have not eyes nor ears 

For God's one Law, obedience to which 

As sense dictates would give them happy life. 

But senseless, each to his own ill, they rush; 

Some pursue glory by the road of strife, 

Otfiers are turned to gain without restraint, 

And some relax in sensual delights. 

But all win evil, turn they here or there 

In thwarted eagerness to And the good. 

O Zeus, all-boimtiful, whose dazzling lightning 

Splits Thy black clouds, rescue mankind from wretched 

Ignorance, scatter darkness from their minds, 

Give them that wisdom by which Thou dost steer 

All things in justice; for so honoured, we 

Shall honour with honour repay, lauding Thy works 

Unceasingly, as mortals fitly do. 

Since greater glory has no man, no god. 

Than due praise of the Universal Law. 



Cleanthes is often criticised for being 'grossly material'. 
This is unfair. Stoicism is a materialist philosophy and he was 
right to try to explain things in material terms. His weakness 
was that his explanations were naive, as when he understood 
a presentation to be a three-dimensional reproduction in the 
psyche of a three-dimensional physical object. He had a pen- 
chant for arbitrary statements that recall the methods of pre- 
Socratics: he could declare the stars to be conical and the moon 
to be shaped like a hat, or detail the stages of the world-confla- 
gration and its quenching. When Aristarchus suggested that 
the sun, not the earth, was at the centre of things, his reply was 
not to criticise his mathematics but to say that he should be 
put on trial for impiety, for having attempted to move 'the 
hearth stone of the world'. 

The invention or development of the idea of tension (p. 76), 
a force that not only maintains the world as a whole but also 
gives strength to individual bodies and individual souls, was 
his chief contribution to Stoic theory. 

Ghrysippus, who succeeded Cleanthes and (we are told) 
frequently differed from him, was a native of Soli in Cilicia, 
where his father had moved from Tarsus. In Soli the Greek 
language was mangled by non-Greek inhabitants, as a result 
of which syntactical errors came to be known as 'solecisms'. 
Galen suggests that Greek was not Ghrysippus' native tongue 
and the extracts preserved from his books prove that he wrote 
it always inelegantly and sometimes incorrectly There is noth- 
ing to show why he came to Athens or why he took to philo- 
sophy, unless credence can be given to Hecato's story that this 
was due to the confiscation of his father's property. But he 
began in the Academy, working widi the sceptics Arcesilaus 
and Lacydes, before becoming a pupil of Cleanthes. The simple 
life ihat he later led may have been due to choice rather than 
necessity. He adopted a regular routine which enabled him 
to produce his great output of books as well as lecturing, prob- 
ably not in the Stoa but in the Odeimi or concert-hall below 
the acropolis, in the Lyceum, which was a public place of exer- 
cise, and in the country at Zoster. 

His style was copious and repetitive, and he included 
generous quotations from other authors, Homer and the 
tragedians, to illustrate his opinions, so that someone once, 



when asked what book he was reading, replied "Chrysippus' 
Medea'} His writings on psychology, the chief source of 
fragments, were remarkably clumsy and ill-constructed. The 
following is not an unfair sample or unfair rendering: 

The sense in which one speaks of excess otf impulse is because 
it goes beyond the natural due proportion of the impulses in 
relation to the men themselves. What I mean might be more 
intelligible as follows. To take an example, in the case of 
walking associated with an impulse, the movement of the legs 
is not excessive but ceases more or less simultaneously with 
die impulse, so as to change and come to a standstill when 
one wants. But in the case of those who run in association 
with an impulse nothing of the sort happens, but the move- 
ment of the legs is excessive in comparison with the impulse, 
so that it is carried away and does not change obediently 
like that as soon as they put it in hand. I imagine that some- 
thing parallel happens in the case of the impulses as a con- 
sequence of their going beyond the due proportion which 
accords with reason, so that when there is an impulse it is 
not obediently disposed, the excess in the case of running 
being understood as going beyond the impulse and in the 
case of an impulse as going beyond reason. The due propor- 
tion of a natural impulse is that which agrees with reason, 
going so far and so long as reason itself requires. And so, as 
the over-run takes place in diis respect and in this manner, 
it is said that there is 'an excessive impulse' and 'an unnatural 
irrational movement of the psyche' (quoted by Galen, Views 
of Hippocrates and Plato, 4. p. 338 M). 

Extracts from his works on ethics show a somewhat less turgid 
manner df writing. The following seems to indicate a view that 
a philosopher's primary concern is with the improvement of his 

Those who suppose that the scholarly life is most appropriate 
for philosophers seem to me to be wrong from the start, as 

'He is known to have quoted Euripides' play in his long work On 
the Passions. 



assuming that they should do this for the sake of entertain- 
ment of sorts or something of that kind and that they should 
spin out dieir whole life in that way, which is, if looked at 
clearly, pleasantly. Their assumption should not go un- 
noticed, many making it explicitly, but not a few doing it 
more obscurely (quoted by Plutarch, Moralia 1033 D). 

The following, from his book On Appropriate Action, is one 
of a number of passages which show him to have maintained 
the tradition of the Cynics in challenging accepted conven- 

When our parents have left us, the simplest form of burial 
should be used, on the view that the body means nothing to 
us, any more dian do the nails, teeth, or hair, and that we 
have no need of any such care or consideration. So, if their 
flesh is useful, they will use it for food, just as if of one's own 
limbs the foot, shedl we say, were amputated it would be 
right to use it, and so on. But if the flesh is useless, they will 
either bury it and forget it, or bum it and scatter the ashes, 
or throw it right away, paying it no more attention than a 
nail or hair (quoted by Sextus, Against the Dogmatists 
11.194, Outlines of Pyrrhonism 3.248; there are slight dif- 
ferences of wording between his two versions). 

Probably, like Zeno in his Republic, Chrysippus was here lay- 
ing down rules of conduct for an ideal society, not suggesting 
that they should be followed in contemporary Greece. 

The common opinion that he was the source of orthodox 
Stoicism is probably correct, although it is possible that much 
of the systematisation found in later authors was not his work. 
The defects of his style left a place for shorter and clearer 
versions, and it is a likely guess that these were supplied by his 
successors, whose works are often cited by Diogenes Laertius 
alongside his, even for the most basic doctrines. It is also easy 
to understand that later teachers found it useful to expound 
his writings to their pupils, as Epictetus did, although at the 
same time he upbraided those who thought philosophy a matter 
of reading Chrysippus, not of learning how to live. But to 
read him had much to offer for those with patience. He was 



very ready to think of difficulties to which Stoic doctrines 
might give rise and to attempt to deal with them; he is said 
frequently to have corrected himself, but sometimes to have 
confessed himself beaten. 

Chrysippus' successor as head of the School, Zeno of Tarsus, 
had many pupils but nothing original to contribute. He was 
followed by a more important figure, Diogenes, who came from 
Seleucia, the new Greek city alongside old Babylon, whence 
he was known as 'Dic^enes of Babylon'. Possessed of a clear, 
simple style, he was able to hand on the work of his predeces- 
sors in a palatable form, sometimes restating arguments to 
avoid possible criticisms. He is known to have written on 
grammar, on the seat of the intelligence, on theology, where 
he followed Cleanthes and Chrysippus in explaining the gods 
of mythology as personified aspects of the one god who ruled the 
universe,^ and on ethics (see p. 55). His views on music and 
rhetoric were attacked by the Epicurean Philodemus, and the 
discovery at Herculaneum of large fragments of the latter's 
works has preserved much information about them. To all 
intents he is the sole surviving authority for Stoic views on 
these subjects, and it is impossible to say how far he was here 
an original thinker. 

Rhetoric, as it was practised in his time, he thought to be 
useless; orators (or politicians as we should call them) were 
unable to influence individuals to manage their private lives 
weU, and this suggested that their effect on public life would 
be equally unhelpful; there was hardly a known instance of an 
orator's having deserved well of his city as an ambassador; the 
orator, qua orator, had not the necessary knowledge to benefit 
his city; that he could only get from philosophy. Orators were 

^Like his predecessors he made much use of 'etymology*, or the 
supposed discovery in a word of allusions to other words relevant to 
its meaning. Thus he saw in Athena, Zeus' power extending into the 
aithet. A work by a Stoic of the first century ad, Gorhutus, teacher 
of the poet Persius, still survives, which explains the Olympians as 
symbols for parts of or processes in the natural world : e.g. Hepk&e&tas 
b the fire we use, so-called because of its being lighted {hephthai). 
The influence of this sort of thinking, strange and unacceptable to 
us, although not altogether disparaged by Plato, extended outside 
the Stoic school. 



trained in methods of deceit and could use it for bad purposes. 
Yet laymen sometimes had the better of them by speaking the 
plain truth; the Spartans had no use for rhetoric, but got their 
own way; even the Athenians, with their love for orators, were 
becoming critical of their technique and their periods. Yet 
he recognised that there were a proper art of rhetoric and virtues 
of style to be used by the man who knew the correct ends of 
persuasion. These virtues were good Greek, clarity, concision, 
appropriateness of language to the occasion, and technical 
elaboration. What exactly he meant by the last phrase must 
be uncertain: he defined it as 'getting away from the language 
of the man-in-the-street'. 

His views about music are reminiscent of those of Plato and, 
like him, he appealed to the authority of the musician Damon. 
Music displayed character and could affect the characters of 
those who heard it; it could be magnificent or humble, manly 
or womanly, orderly or arrogant. It had a place in the culture 
of all peoples; its use in religious ceremonies was notable; it 
helped to control the passions of love and of grief; it could 
encourage the manual worker. The addition of music to the 
words of a poem increased its effect on the mind. Music pro- 
moted the kind of drinking-party that could be approved: 'no 
form of play and relaxation is more suitable for free men than 
that one should sing, another play the cithara,^ another dance; 
and love is better when accompanied by vocal music, not that 
of the pipe'. Some Stoics may have deserved their modern 
reputation for stem sobriety, but this passage is a reminder that 
at this time at least they could unhesitatingly accept some 
normal and harmless pleasures. 

Philodemus' criticisms of Diogenes are sometimes captious, 
but he made the effective point that there was no evidence 
that the songs of Ibycus, Anacreon, and Agathon had, as Dio- 
genes had assumed, been a bad influence on the young, or, if 
they had been, that the music was responsible, not the words. 

The most significant event in Diogenes' life was his visit to 
Rome. In 155 bc he was sent there as an octogenarian on an 
embassy along with Cameades, head of the Academy, who had 
once been his pupil in logic, and Gritolaus, head of the Peripa- 

*A stringed instrument, played by plucking. 


tetics, to appeal against a decision given by the Sicyonians 
acting as arbitrators; they had condemned Athens to pay the 
heavy fine of 500 talents to the neighbouring state of Oropus. 
Greece was still nominally independent, but the Roman Senate 
was not averse to using pressure to influence its affairs. The 
choice of these philosophers was doubtless due to their having a 
reputation outside Athens j this and the honesty which they 
might be supposed to practise would perhaps recommend 
Athens' case better than the suspect characters of obscure poli- 
ticians.^ While in Rome all three men lectured on philosophical 
topics, a novelty in that city, and attracted much attention. 
Cameades had something of a succes-de-scandale by defending 
and attacking the concept of justice on successive days, but 
Diogenes impressed by his sensible morality. He was the first 
Stoic teacher to visit Rome, and the first of a long line. 

Antipater of Tarsus, a contemporeiry of Cameades, defended 
the Stoic position against his attacks by means of numerous 
books, which were read along with those of Chrysippus two hun- 
dred years later. It is possible that his formulations are to be seen 
in some of the later accounts. He was an influential champion 
but not an important innovator; innovation was to come from 
his pupil and admirer Panaetius. To us he is interesting because 
he is die first Stoic from whom there survive examples of the 
practical advice that philosophers found it more and more their 
business to give. They are written in an eloquent although easy- 
going style, very \mlike that of Chrysippus. His advice to a man 
in search of a wife reads a littie absurdly today, but was sen- 
sible in a society where the suitor had little opportunity of get- 
ting to know his bride-to-be. The man was not to look for wealth 
or good birth or any other vanity, let alone beauty, which always 
creates a proud and despotic character: he must look into her 
father's character and her mother's; then, if they are good, see 
if they have brought the girl up to be like themselves or spoiled 
her through excessive fondness; he should inquire into this in 
various ways, from slaves and free men, from members of the 

*That Stoics were now playing a part in civic life at Athens is 
shown by an inscription probably of 151/150 which includes 
several men known to be Stoics among the officials at the festival 
Ptolemaea (IG IP 1938). 



household, from neighbours and friends, from cooks and work- 
men and workwomen who have been in the house; people are 
all too ready to trust such persons with information they should 
not have. 

A long passage on marriage attacks those who selfishly remain 
single, and points out that they not only fail in a duty but also 
miss a blessing. 

A man with no experience of a wife and children has not 
tasted the truest and most genuine kind of goodwill. Other 
kinds of friendship and affection are like the mixing by juxta- 
position of beans or the like, but the affection of a man and 
wife resembles the complete blending of wine and water. For 
they alone share not only their property and their children, 
man's dearest possession, and their souls, but their very bodies 
also (Stobaeus 4.67.25). 

The wife will of course be subordinate to her husband; that she 
should be expected to support his political or intellectual life 
without sharing it was inevitable in the social circumstances of 
the time. But husband and wife were to form a partnership: 'if 
one should take a second self as it were (and it makes no dif- 
ference whether male or female), one would do all one's work 
much more lightly and easDy.' 

The views and historical importance of Panaetius, Antipater's 
successor, are treated in other chapters (pp. 123 and 142). A 
member of a leading family in Rhodes, he came to Athens as a 
yoxmg man to study philosophy. He was probably in his late 
thirties when the younger Scipio, the conqueror of Carthage, 
some ten years his senior, took him as a friend on an embassy to 
Egypt in 140 bg, and it is likely that they had made one 
another's acquaintance in Rome. He certainly spent consid- 
erable periods there in the following decade. Before Antipater's 
death in 129 he was assisting in the teaching at Athens, where 
he may be supposed to have resided in the main thereafter. At 
some time he was offered Athenian citizenship, but refused it, 
on what grounds is not known; the reason he gave, that one 
city was enough for a man of moderation, was clearly no more 
than a polite excuse. Such considerations had not deterred 
Chrysippus from enrolling in the citizen body. 



It is a striking fact that down to Panaetius no man of Athenian 
birth was head of the Stoic school and indeed no Stoic whose 
views or activities are recorded was an Athenian. But his joint 
successors, Dardanus and Mnesarchus, were both native Athe- 
nians, as was his pupil ApoUodorus, who won some reputation 
as a literary critic. The other schools were predominantly but 
not exclusively headed by men from abroad, except that the 
Epicurean remained wholly under Athenians. One can only 
guess at reasons for this. It is possible that the Epicureans found 
it convenient that their head should as an Athenian citizen be 
legally capable of owning the Garden together with its buildings 
where they met. Native Athenians were not so numerous that 
one would expect them to produce many philosophers of parts, 
and it may be no more than chance that none adopted Stoicism. 
Yet there was a factor which may have drawn an Athenian to 
other schools. If he wished to take part in public affairs, as his 
citizenship made possible, they offered him a training in rhet- 
oric, or the art of persuasive speech. This was practised both in 
the Peripatos and in the Academy, where the exercise of speak- 
ing on both sides of a question provided a good training. At the 
end of the second century the Academic Philo of Larisa taught 
his pupils even how to handle particular cases in the courts, but 
he represents only the climax of a movement to educate men 
in rhetoric controlled by philosophy. The Stoics too regarded 
rhetoric as part of philosophy; it was a division of 'logic'. But 
for them it was the art of speaking, not persuasively, but truth- 
fully; hence a speaker would find it an inadequate tool to win 
the votes of a jury or an assembly. There may therefore be some 
connexion between the nature of Stoic teaching and the ab- 
sence of prominent Athenian pupils. Now although Panaetius 
did not, so far as is known, teach a practical art of rhetoric, he 
certainly encouraged those who were fitted for public life to 
take part in it, and Cicero reports that he allowed the advocate 
to defend a man whom he knew to be guilty {On Duties 2.51). 
His teaching may accordingly have been more attractive than 
that of his predecessors to men who intended to take part in the 
public life of their city. 

Archedemus, who was roughly a contemporary of Panaetius, 
came from Tarsus; it was a town where learning and philosophy 
were greatly favoured (Strabo 14.5. 13). After studying in Athens 



he moved to Babylon, or perhaps the twin-town of Seleucia, and 
there established a school. His writings were later read along 
with those of Chrysippus and Antipater. His career serves to 
show that some Stoics regarded philosophy not as a search for 
truth, which could have been carried on better in Athens, but 
as its propagation. It may be guessed that there were other less 
prominent teachers who carried the message to the Greeks and 
the hellenised Asiatics of other towns in the East. 

Nothing is known of where Boethus of Sidon worked. He 
wrote a commentary in four volimies on the Weatherlore of the 
third-century poet Aratus, a man himself affected by Stoic 
pantheism. He did not suppose that the sign caused the weather 
that followed it, but tried to find some single common cause for 
both. This rationalism appeared also in his rejection of the doc- 
trine that the world would end in a conflagration. He argued 
first that there was no internal cause to destroy it — a criticism 
that seems to disregard the orthodox view that fire will eat up 
all the other elements, until everything is fire. Secondly he main- 
tained that there are three ways in which a thing can be des- 
troyed, by being broken up, by removal of its predominant 
quality, or by being compounded into something new. The 
world could not break up; its quality could not be completdy 
removed, since even the supporters of the conflagration said 
that the quality of the world-order was then concentrated on 
Zeus; and it could not be compounded, because the four ele- 
ments would all disappear at once if compounded. As reported, 
these arguments have little weight; it is a mere assertion that 
the world cannot break up or that its quality is irremovable. 
Boedius also asked what C!od would do jifter the world had 
turned to fire; with nothing to look after he would be left in a 
state of intolerable idleness. 

Although he was not a Stoic, Antiochus of Ascalon, who 
worked in the early part of the first century bc, deserves a men- 
tion here. Becoming head of the Academy, he felt that scepti- 
cism had had its day. His predecessor, Philo of Larisa, had al- 
ready admitted that some things could be known, aldiough he 
had continued to deny that there was any such thing as the 
'cognitive presentation' in which the Stoics found the mark of 
truth. Antiochus abandoned scepticism completely, admitting 
that there were such presentations and that they were the only 



road to knowledge.^ He also ceded to Chrysippus that action is 
impossible without prior assent to a presentation; Garneades 
had denied this, since otherwise the sceptic would have been 
condemned, if he were to live up to his theories, to absolute 
immobility. 'Cognitive presentations' were therefore necessary. 
The only difference between the Stoics and Antiochus was that 
the latter was not satisfied that such presentations could be im- 
mediately recognised, but said that before accepting them one 
should take precautions against error and confirm the health 
oif one's sense-organs. This divergence looked less important than 
it was. 

The most influential part of Antiochus' teaching lay in his 
historical theory that both Stoicism and Peripateticism were 
adaptations of Platonism: Zeno had done little more than 
change the vocabulary, and Aristotle had in ethics been a true 
follower of Plato, although Theophrastus had regrettably aban- 
doned the position that virtue was of itself enough to bring hap- 
piness. A lack of interest in metaphysics^ and perhaps ignorance, 
certainly neglect, of the greater part of the writings that form 
the Aristotelian Corpus made easier this exaggeration of a ker- 
nel of truth. Antiochus propounded a system of ethics which he 
represented as being a modernised version of that of the old 
Academy, and which he strongly contrasted with the innova- 
tions of Zeno, but in practice he borrowed freely from the 
Stoics. He adopted their account of oikeiosis, the process by 
which the living being becomes attached to all that accords with 
its nature, proceeding from the 'primary natural things' to the 
development of morality under the guidance of reason. But he 
criticised Zeno for failing to understand that man's 'nature' is 
physical as well as mental and denying that bodily excellence 
was to be called good. Zeno had also been wrong in thinking 
that it was enough to choose rightly among those dungs that he 

^There is plenty of evidence for the survival of Carneadean 
scepticism after Antiochus. The history of the Academy at Athens in 
the next 100 years is a blank, and its leading members may have 
reverted to probabilism. 

'It is disputed whether Antiochus accepted Plato's transcendent 
Forms. I tend to agree with R. E. Witt, Albinus 57 f. and C. J. de 
Vogel, Greek Philosophy III 278 f. against G. Luck, Antiochus 28 ff., 
that he did not. 



called 'indifferent'; possession of what is 'primarily natural' 
must be a factor in happiness. Yet Antiochus regarded it as a 
minimal factor, which could do no more than slightly increase 
the happiness that was the gift of virtue. He was entirely at one 
with the Stoa in lauding the self-sufficiency of the wise and 
therdfore virtuous man. 

'With a very few changes, Antiochus would be an absolutely 
genuine Stoic'; that is a remark made by a character in one of 
the Dialogues of Cicero {Academica Priora 2.132), who was at 
times much influenced by him. But it is an exaggeration, even 
when it has been added that Antiochus followed the Stoics in 
demanding the complete absence of passions. He was keenly 
aware of the difference which separated him from them. But 
he is a significant figure in that he suggested that there was much 
common ground between the various schools of philosophy, and 
showed that one who was not a Stoic could usefully borrow 
from those who were. It was to become a feature of the succeed- 
ing centuries that Stoic influence became widespread in writers 
who did not belong to that school, or who were hostile to it. 



Innovation : Panaetius and Posidonius 


After Chrysippus the heads of the school down to Antipater 
had been champions of orthodoxy. With Panaetius innovation 
appears. As the friend of Scipio and other eminent Romans he 
had seen wider horizons than was usual for the professional 
philosophers who had preceded him. Perhaps this led to his 
practical approach: he gave up the inessential and encumbering 
doctrine of the world-conflagration, and in his work On Provi- 
dence was sceptical about the reality of prophecy, and in parti- 
cular utterly rejected the claims of astrology. '^ Probably he did 
not write a great deal; his known work was predominantly 
ethical and addressed to the problems of conduct that life pro- 
vided. One book was on political action, another on cheerful- 
ness or being of good heart, while that of which we know most 
was On Appropriate Actions. We owe this entirely to Cicero, 
who adapted it for his De Officiis oi On Duties, in such a way 
that the outlines of Panaetius' treatment are still visible, and 
may be traced as follows.^ 

All animals have a natural tendency to self-preservation, and 
to mate for the sake of propagation, and to have some care for 
their offspring. Man is distinguished by his possession of reason, 

^Cicero, On Divination 2.85-97. Diogenes of Babylon had already 
denied that the stars could foretell the incidents of man's life, but 
allowed that they might indicate his character and capabilities. The 
conflagration had been rejected by Boethus of Sidon. 

'More elaborate reconstructions have been made, but although 
they include some probable elements, a measure of reserve towards 
them will be prudent. Attempts to find evidence for Panaetius in 
other works of Cicero are inconclusive. Talks at Tusculum 2 has been 
supposed to represent a letter by him to Q,. Tubero; this seems 
uiJikely. Some influence in On Laws 1 and On the Republic, of which 
only fragments survive, is probable but its extent cannot be deter- 
mined. Influence on On the Nature of the Gods and On Friendship 
26-32 is not out of the question, but quite speculative. 



which enables him to take a longer and wider viewj it increases 
his love for his children and causes him to develop his co-opera- 
tive relationship with other men. It is also a mark of man that 
he wants to learn and know the truth. Along with this goes a 
desire to be pre-eminent and an unwillingess to take orders 
except for his own good. Finally man is the only animal with a 
sense of order and propriety, which makes him appreciate beauty 
both of the physical world and of an orderly life. From these 
roots spring the four cardinal virtues; although all are con- 
nected, each has its own field. 

1. Wisdom, distinguished from the three others by being the- 
oretical and not a practical virtue, consists in knowing the truth. 
There are two faults in this field; one is false belief that we know 
what we do not know or hasty acceptance of ideas, the other 
is to waste effort over difficult and unnecessary subjects. Cicero, 
who prefers a life of action to one of thought, treats wisdom 
superficially. It is possible that Panaetius distinguished, as with 
the other virtues, two aspects, a negative and a positive, which 
would correspond to the two faults. On the one hand false 
opinions and unwarranted confidence were to be avoided, on 
the other one ought to prosecute study of subjects of importance. 
What these may have been and what he regarded as difficult 
and tmnecessary, can only be guessed. He himself had some 
interest in the history of philosophy and of philosophers and 
their writings. He is said to have started his teaching with 
physics, but there is no evidence that he went beyond generali- 
ties to investigate the details of the world of nature, or that he 
concerned himself with logic. But there is no reason to suppose 
that he thought everyone should pursue all the branches of 
learning that could be approved. His emphasis on the capacities 
of the individual (see below) would tell the other way. 

2. Justice is the virtue that arises from the social instincts. 
Negatively it forbids one man to injure another, to take his 
private property, or to lay hands on what belongs to the com- 
munity; positively it is an active beneficence, which forms the 
bond of society. Cicero develops this theme at length, probably 
finding much of his material in Panaetius. It is likely enough 
that the latter insisted that beneficence should be prudendy 
applied, should not exceed the benefactor's means, and should 
be fitted to the recipient's merits; also that we belong to a num- 


ber of communities of different size, the largest being that of the 
human race, the smallest that of the family. Our positive obliga- 
tions towards the members of these communities vary, but the 
firmest link of all is that which binds good men together. 

3. Bravery, springing from the desire for pre-eminence, again 
has two sides, one a disdain for the outer world, a refusal to 
submit to any other man, to any passion, or to any blow of for- 
tune, and the other a wish to do great and useful deeds that are 
difficult and dangerous. Bravery is for Panaetius freedom not 
merely from fear, but also from cupidity; it means too that one 
will not be tempted by pleasure, moved by pain, or distiubed by 
anger. Undistracted therefore and undeterred, the brave man, 
driven on by his selfless ambition, will devote himself to his 
chosen enterprise. The undertaking that has most interest for 
Cicero is that of political life, but it must not be assumed that 
Panaetius gave it the same emphasis. Yet it would not be surpri- 
sing if he did, in view of his association with some of the leading 
men at Rome. 

It has been suggested that Panaetius preferred to call this 
virtue greatness of spirit, the quality that Aristode had regarded 
as the consiunmation of the moral virtues. The term 'greatness 
of spirit' became commonly used among the Romans, often in 
contexts where one would expect a word for Tbravery'. The ini- 
tiative for this use may have come from Panaetius, although 
there is no proof. 

4. The fourth cardinal virtue was in Greek called sophrosyne, 
a word for which there is notoriously no English equivalent, 
unless we can say that its possessor is the man who 'keeps his 
head'. But the Greeks themselves found the word easier to use 
than to explain. Panaetius thought that it was closely associated 
with the notion of 'propriety' {to prepon, Latin decorum). Pro- 
priety demands that appetites should be controlled by reason; 
it is improper, that is contrary to what we expect from a man 
who is, unlike a brute beast, a rational being, for them to be out 
of hand. Again it is improper for a man to be devoted to bodily 
pleasures, for nature has equipped him to think and to act. 

But we have not only the character of being human, each of 
us is an individual with his own qualities. Propriety requires 
therefore regard not only for general hiunan nature but also 
for our own capacities; only thus will a man be able to live a 



consistent life, and avoid the absurdity of attempting the im- 
possible. But these are not the only considerations for determin- 
ing propriety of conduct: it must be affected by the position in 
which fortune has placed us and also by the kind of life we have 
chosen to lead; this choice cS career should be determined by 
examining both our natural capacity and our circumstances. 

Cicero proceeds to develop at length the demands of pro- 
priety, sketching the behaviour to be expected of young and of 
old, emphasising the importance of decency in dress and in lan- 
guage, and inculcating a sense of proportion and of occasion. 
Basically, no doubt, all this rests on Panaetius, although much 
of the detail may be adjusted to Roman ideas of good behaviour. 

Propriety, aldiough the particular concern of sophrosyne, is 
of course not identical with it. The other virtues and the actions 
that proceed from them are all appropriate to man. 

The loss of the writings of earlier Stoics makes it impossible 
to be sure how mudi of this well-thought-out scheme is original. 
Had it not been used by Cicero, nothing would have been known 
of it. But there are certain features that appear to be novel. 

1. All the virtues are derived from what may be called innate 
instincts. Hence Panaetius described the 'end' of life as 'living 
in accordfmce with the starting-points given us by nature'. But 
clearly the instincts are not in themselves a sufficient guide to 
action: they may be the motive-force, but they need the direc- 
tion that is given them by reason. The part played by reason is 
so central in Stoic ethics that it cannot have been overlooked by 
Panaetius in his definition. And indeed it is not overlooked, for 
it is the most important of the starting-points or assets that na- 
ture gives to man. Panaetius' originality lies in associating with 
it a number of tendencies which can be developed and ordered 
to secure a good life. One of these, the instinct for self-preser- 
vation and for propagation, had been used in a similar way by 
Chrysippus, but Panaetius is the first Stoic we know to have 
given man a large endowment of natural assets. 

2. In orthodox Stoicism the only good man is the perfectly 
wise man and he alone is possessed of virtue. Panaetius seems 
not to have denied this, but to have let it fall out of sight. When 
a young man asked him whether a wise man would fall in love, 
he replied "we will not bother about that now: you and I, who 
are still far from being wise, must not run the risk di falling into 


a state so disturbed and uncontrolled'. The imaginary sage 
ceases to be the sole ideal towards which all men should strive; 
each man should have his own idejil, suited to his capacity. 
Panaetius expressed this by the image of a number of archers 
all aiming at the same target, but at different marks on it; a 
darts-board would be the modem equivalent. 

3. The emphasis on the positive sides of the virtues of justice 
and bravery made this a philosophy suitable for men who 
wished to be leaders of public life. Panaetius also insisted at 
length that it was essential to obtain other men's co-operation if 
results of importance were to be achieved. It is perhaps not an 
accident that he came from Rhodes, an island that had main- 
tained its independence and where the aristocrats, imder the 
guise of a democracy, effectively governed with a strong tradi- 
tion of service and of care for the welfare of the less fortunate. 
It was certainly no accident that he exerted a strong influence 
on a number of his aristocratic Roman friends. 

Diogenes Laertius reports that Panaetius and his pupil Posi- 
donius (see p. 129) thought that virtue was not sufficient for hap- 
piness, but that one needed health, financial resources, and 
strength (7.128); elsewhere (7.103) he claims that Posidonius 
thought riches and health to be good, and that claim is certainly 
false. It is improbable that Pansietius, even although he greatly 
admired Aristotle, here went over to the Peripatetic position. 
One of the best-known distinctions between Peripatos and Stoa 
was, after all, that the former believed happiness to require the 
possession of something more than virtue; yet neither Cicero 
nor any reputable author hints that Panaetius was not orthodox 
on this central doctrine. Indeed we have seen that it was of the 
essence of bravery that one should look down on all external 
things, and that nothing should be admired or wished for but 
morality. {On Duties 1.66.) It may be right to reject Diogenes' 
evidence as a simple misrepresentation, but if diere is anything 
in it the explanation may be that both Panaetius and Posidonius 
held that diese morally indifferent advantages were necessary 
pre-conditions of some kinds of virtuous action, not that virtue 
did not bring happiness without them, but that without them 
one could not act virtuously in every way. The positive side of 
Panaetius' virtue of justice will require monetary resources, 
the positive side of bravery needs health and strength; a poor 



man cannot make public benefactions and a bedridden man 
cannot engage in the perils of war, exploration, or political life. 
Yet Panaetius cannot have meant that a poor man or a sick 
man cannot be virtuous. He recognised that correct action was 
not the same for all, but depended on circumstances. He may 
not have been aware of the difficulties that this would bring 
for die doctrine that virtue does not admit of degree. 

Panaetius made some changes from orthodox Stoic psycho- 
logy, reducing the parts of the psyche to six. He did not main- 
tain a separate element concerned with speech, but assimilated 
it to other deliberate bodily movements; and he ascribed sexual 
activity to physis (nature), as taking place automatically, like the 
functions of nutrition and growth. It seems therefore that 
whereas the orthodox had supposed that the physis which ruled 
the imborn child was entirely converted at birth in to psyche, he 
thought that some at least persisted, to determine what others 
had seen as being psychical processes. 

"Die most important of Panaetius' Greek pupils were Hecato 
of Rhodes and the much greater Posidonius. Both rejected much 
of his teaching. But Hecato wrote at length on 'appropriate 
action', and busied himself with casuistry, the discussion of 
cases in which it was difficult to decide what was appropriate. 
This was not a new departure. Diogenes of Babylon had ima- 
gined the situation of a man who brought a cargo of wheat to a 
town in the grip of famine: ought he to reveal to piurchasers 
his knowledge that several more ships carrying grain were close 
behind him? Diogenes argued that he was under no obligation 
to do so and thereby depress the price he could obtain. Antipater 
on the other hand thought that silence would be immoral. 
Diogenes believed that one should pass on a false coin that one 
had received, and sell without remark a thieving slave or wine 
that had turned sour. We should perhaps side widi Antipater 
who took the other view. 

Hecato decided that in a shipwreck a wise man would not 
snatch a plank from a madman, and that a son should not give 
information about his father whom he knew to be tunnelling 
into the public treasiuy, but that he ought in the last resort to 
denounce him if he were trying to seize autocratic power. If the 
price of food were very high, it would be right to let one's slaves 
starve, but one should not throw them overboard to lighten ship 


in preference to horses more valuable than they. Discussions 
of this kind may seem strange activities for philosophers and 
philosophers may be thought no more equipped than others to 
solve such moral problems. But the Stoic claimed to be a guide 
to conduct, not a mere dealer in theory, and he might say that 
by exercising himself over such questions he had trained his 
judgment and was more likely than others to give the right 


Posidonius, a wealthy man from Apamea in northern Syria, 
after being a pupil of the aged Panaetius at A&ens, made his 
home in Rhodes, at that time a flourishing intellectual centre. 
Still an independent state, it had a famous school of rhetoric 
and had also given refuge to learned exiles from Alexandria. 
Here he enjoyed citizenship — it can only be guessed how he 
came to have it — filled the high office of prytanis, and in the 
winter of 87 to 86 bg was sent on an embassy to Rome. His 
books and his lectures brought him fame, and something of a 
school grew around him. 

Surviving extracts from his writing show him to have matched 
his style to his subject as he ranged from simple clarity to a 
powerful and biting manner, marked by a wide vocabulary, 
striking similes and metaphors, ironic allusions, and play upon 
words. In using this last arresting style he wjis the practitioner 
of a kind of Hellenistic prose about to go out of fashion, but the 
'rhetoric' of which he is accused by the geographer Strabo is 
there not for its own sake, but is expressive of his feelings and 
attitudes and gives a vivid idea of his personality. 

At one time it was fashionable to see Posidonius' influence in 
almost every subsequent author, and attempts were made to 
reconstruct Protean philosophies, in which all contradictions 
were reconciled, from the works of these supposed followers. 
This excess led to a sceptical reaction. Yet some influence he 
must have had. Given the partial nature of the evidence, no 
picture of Posidonius will escape distortion, but one that is based 
exclusively on attested fragments and doctrines may be unneces- 
sarily distorted and incomplete. To go beyond them is, however, 
fraught with difficulty. Even if an author names Posidonius as 
his source, it is hard to know how much has been taken from 



him; when an author does not name him, but expresses views 
known to have been his, it need not follow that he was the 
source even of these, let alone of associated matter; too little is 
known about Posidonius' predecessors, so that he and the later 
author may for all we can tell be independently following some 
earlier model. At present a little unattested material would be 
accepted by most scholars as Posidonian; in time a little more 
may be safely added to the picture. In what follows I have tried 
not to venture far beyond the bounds of certainty.^ 

Posidonius was a man of original, inquiring, and wide-rang- 
ing mind with a synoptic vision of the world. If there is one 
characteristic which stands out, it is the way in which he saw 
all things as connected. Although this was implicit in traditional 
Stoicism and Ghrysippus had talked of sympatheia or sympa- 
thetic affection of the parts of the whole, Posidonius gave the 
idea new emphasis. Typically he modified the old comparison 
of the parts of philosophy to the wall, the trees, and the fruits 
of an orchard by comparing them to the interacting parts of an 
animal, bones and sinews, flesh and blood, and psyche. In keep- 
ing with this he was unwilling to see sharp divisions in the world; 
traditionally there were three kingdoms, animal, vegetable, and 
mineral, the inhabitants of which were organised by different 
fonns of indwelling breath, by psyche (life), physis (growth) and 
hexis (condition). According to Posidonius a 'life-force' could 
be recognised everywhere. Man is not sharply cut off from the 
'brute' beasts; they too show glimmerings of intelligence, and 
his psyche is not pure reason, but has its vegetative and irra- 
tional parts. This is Aristotelian, whether by influence or coin- 
cidence; Aristotelian too was his interest in the causes of 

^I take it as certain that Diodorus Siculus used Posidonius 
extensively for Books 5 and 34 of his History, and that Strabo used 
him more than he admits. An indeterminate amount of Gleomedes 
On Circular Motion and a small part of Vitruvius On Architecture 
Book VIII admittedly come from the philosopher. Posidonian 
influence seems probable in Cicero On the Nature of the Gods II, 
23-32, 49-56, 1 15-153. Seneca may have made a little more use of 
him than he notes. Beyond this there is little that is not speculative. 
Much has been based on the supposition that Nemesius (? fifth 
century ad) indirectly transmits much from Posidonius; the ground 
seems to me treacherous. 



phenomena, an interest of which Strabo, a more orthodox Stoic, 
disapproved. Traditionally it had been usual to regard effective 
causes as obscure and take refuge in a vague ascription of all 
things to the ultimate cause, God. For Posidonius the discovery 
of intermediate causation brought proof of how all things 
worked together. He was not satisfied with generalities; know- 
ledge of the parts was necessary for understanding of the whole. 
Accordingly, like Aristotle, he thought it valuable to observe and 
record details in many fields of knowledge. The philosopher 
ought to care to know how the divine power works. Wisdom had 
been defined as 'knowledge of divine and human things and of 
their caused; he put a new emphasis on the words in italics. 

This curiosity took him, probably in the first decade of the 
first century, on one or more journeys to the West, not merely 
to Rome, but to Sicily, to wild Liguria, and outside the Roman 
boundaries into Gaul. Several vivid sketches of that rude 
society survive : the paying of men to allow their throats to be 
cut for public amusement, the nailing of skulls as trophies to 
the doorway ('an imfamiliar sight, but one gets used to it'), the 
huge meals where men gnawed whole joints, like lions. But he 
took the honour paid to the bards and to the Druids, whom he 
saw as philosophers, to be a sign that even among the most 
savage barbarians 'pride and passion give way to wisdom, and 
Ares stands in awe of the Muses' (Diodorus 5.31). 

It was in Spain that he made his most famous observations, 
on the Atlantic coast at Gades, the modem Cadiz. Here he no- 
ticed that the daily ebb and flow of the tide was connected with 
the circling of the earth by the moon. The people of those parts 
told him, according to Strabo (3.5.8), of the yearly changes that 
brought especially high tides at the summer solstice; he said 
that he spent some days at Gades when the moon was full at that 
solstice, but was unable to confirm their statement; at the new 
moon, however, being inland, he was able to observe the effects 
of what he supposed to be a remarkable high tide: the river 
Baitis (modem Guadalquivir) was pent up and overflowed. He 
knew that there was a cycle which brought the highest tides at 
full and new moon and the least at half-moon. He concluded 
that there was a similar yearly cycle with peaks at the solstices 
and lows at the equinoxes. In fact the high tides come at the 
equinoxes, as was known a century later to Seneca and Pliny. 



The guess, commonly made, that they had this from Posidonius 
and that he was misrepresented by Strabo seems to be rooted in 
the belief that such a great man cannot have been mistaken or 
misunderstood his informants.^ 

Probably Posidonius brought to the ignorant dwellers by the 
almost tideless Mediterranean something well-known to those 
who lived on the shores of the open sea; but he did all he could 
to verify the facts, and he tried also to explain them. The ex- 
planation was of course inadequate; he seems to have thought 
that the heat of the moon, which he believed to be a mixture of 
air and fire, caused a swelling of the water, without being strong 
enough to evaporate it (why then should there be a high tide at 
new moon?).'' But he saw in the connexion of moon and sea 
evidence of the unifying spirit that integrated the world. This 
same cosmic sympathy he found illustrated by various tales of 
connexion between the phases of the moon and the growth of 
plants and animals. 

The work best represented in surviving fragments is his His 
tory in 52 volumes, which took up the story of the world where 
Polybius had left off in 145 bg. But his conception is very dif- 
ferent. Whereas Polybius was cool and factual, he sees events as 
caused by human psychology, whether of the individual or of 
the crowd; he can understand men's passions and follies, but he 
does not pardon or excuse them. He believes in aristocratic rule 
and that the Romans deserved their dominance, but fears that 
moral decay is ruining the order of society. He is therefore 
emotionally involved in the history he records, using all his 
skill to enlist the reader's approval or condemnation of the 

The brilliance of Posidonius' account of the Sicilian slave- 
rising of 135-132 BC is still recognisable in Photius' summary of 
Diodorus' lost book 34. There was a vivid picture of the multi- 
tudes of slaves acquired by the great landowners, mostly Roman 
equites but also Sicilian Greeks, and of their brutal treatment. 

^Priscianus Lydus (sixth century ad) gives the correct view in a 
passage which begins with an acknowledgment to Posidonius. I see 
no reason for preferring this evidence to the detailed and coherent 
account given by Strabo. 

"This depends on Priscianus Lydus. Aetius gives it as Posidonius' 
view that the moon caused winds which in turn caused the tides. 



Then the owners, to avoid the cost of feeding their shepherds, 
encouraged them to live by brigandage; the countryside became 
perilous to travellers and farms were plundered. ITie slaves, 
organising themselves in armed bands for their rapine, began to 
feel their own strength. The Roman praetors who governed the 
island were intimidated from any firm action because the owners 
were equites, members of the order who formed the juries at 
Rome and who would try them if they were accused of mal- 
administration. (This last point appears to be an anachronism, 
since the coiurts did not fall under the control of the equites 
until 122; it seems most probable that Posidonius confused the 
situation before the second slave-rising of 103 with that ruling 
before the first.) 

The explosive situation having been thus explained, he went 
on to show how individxials put the spark to it. The cruelty of 
Damophilus, an ostentatiously rich Greek of Enna, drove his 
slaves to desperation, and they received encouragement from a 
Syrian slave who had set up as a magician and prophet and been 
used by his master as an entertaining turn at dinner-parties. He 
had been accustomed to prophesy that he would himself become 
a king, and now at the head of 400 armed slaves he seized the 
town of Enna. The story goes on with the spread of the revolt, 
with the torture and the slaughter of the owners, and with the 
final bloody suppression of ^e rebels after the siege of Tauro- 
meniiun (modern Taormina), where the starving slaves resorted 
to cannibalism. But Posidonius made it clear that men were not 
naturally wild beasts; these slaves had been depraved by the 
cruelty and cupidity of their masters. He noted that Damophi- 
lus' daughter, who had succoured her parents' victims, was 
allowed to go unharmed.^ 

In his accounts of the terrestial globe Posidonius seems to 
have been a good eye-witness, but uncritical in his theorising. He 
argued that the earth's 'torrid' zone was not all uninhabitable, 
but had a cooler central or equatorial strip. Perhaps he had 

'The longest, very readable, and partially verbatim extract from 
the History concerns one Athenio, who carried the Athenians to the 
losing side in the Mithridatic war of 88 bg: see Athenaeus 211e- 
215c. Tarn's complaint, Hellenistic Civilisation, p. 286, that he neg- 
lected the true causes of anti-Roman feeling at Athens, is a mere 
assertion; they may have preceded this passage. 



heard of peoples who lived south of the Sahara, but not far 
enough away to be in the southern temperate zone. But his ex- 
planations of why the equator should be cool — the nights are 
longer than those of summer in more northerly regions, and the 
sun 'travels faster', i.e. passes over a greater distance of the 
earth's surface in any given time there than elsewhere — were 
not plausible. Better was another suggestion, that winds and 
rains cooled the atmosphere of the equatorial regions. 

In reckoning the earth's circumference at 240,000 stades his 
calculation was based on two incorrect figures, an estimate that 
the difference of height of the star Ganopus seen from Rhodes 
and from Alexandria is ^ of the zodiac circle, and another 
that the distance between the two places is 5,000 stades. The 
two errors work in opposite directions, and if by stade he meant 
the standard stade of 185 metres, his result is not far out. But 
the method is imscientific in that he started from figures on 
which he had no reason to rely; and indeed he probably added 
that 5,000 stades might be incorrect. By chance the result is 
better than any other ancient estimate.^ 

He correctly saw that the sun was much larger than the earth 
and suggested a method for estimating its size, necessarily in- 
effective because he had no means of determining its distance, 
for which he had to make an arbitrary assumption. In this great 
sun, which was pure fire, he saw the cause of mudi on earth; it 
created jewels and plants and animals £ind different races of 
men, whose characters were associated with their physiques, 
according to the angle at which its rays fell; for fire has in it a 
Vital force'. The earth too contains fire and therefore life. He 
was greatiy interested in volcanoes, the most spectaculeir evi- 

^The procedure is inferior to that of Eratosthenes, who had 
worked more than a century earlier, being based on premises that 
involve a greater margin of error; hence some modem writers 
suppose that his object was not to give a more accurate figure. 
Elsewhere he is reported as saying that the minimum size of the 
earth's circumference was 180,000 stades. This figure could be 
obtained by combining the fraction ^ with Eratosthenes' distance 
between Rhodes and Alexandria, namely 3,750 stades. If it was so 
reached, it looks like a blunder. Eratosthenes' figure was deduced 
from his own estimate of the earth's circumference as 252,000 stades, 
combined with the more nearly correct fraction ^. 



dence, and noted how well vines grew in their lava. The rhyth- 
mical movement of the waves of the sea, which cast out alien 
bodies, is another sign of life. 

But history and geography, like meteorology and geometry, 
interests which must here be passed over, are subjects that while 
employing philosophical principles are not the heart of philo- 
sophy. That for any Stoic is ethics. In this Posidonius took a new 
line. He could see no better starting-point than the passions, a 
familiar reality and urgent practical problem. Justifiably critical 
of the orthodox Stoic psychology, he reverted to Plato's view 
that the psyche had both rational and irrational elements. The 
attempt to maintain the unity of the command-centre by inter- 
preting the passions as false judgments or their results was in- 
compatible with the facts of escperience and did not allow any 
plausible explanation of how passions arose or were overcome. 
Once again Posidonius wanted to penetrate to causes. He point- 
ed out that the same false judgment may be accompanied by 
passion one day, but not on another. Why do passions die down, 
although the judgment persists ? In animals and children we can 
see the domination of irrational forces; is it likely that these 
should disappear with the coming of reason? On the contrary 
they remain, and it is they that get out of hand and cause the 
impulses that are 'disobedient to reason'. We have inborn de- 
sires for pleasure and for power, which give rise to the passions, 
'excessive impulses', which need to be restrained by reason. 
These are not parts, but capacities of the psyche, which is a 
single substance capable of various activities. A false judgment 
may be associated with a passion, but as its result rather than 
its cause; the 'emotional pull' carries reason off its right course. 
Now the desires of the irrational elements can be satisfied, plea- 
sures obtained or victory achieved. The passion will then die 
down, although the judgment, say that a certain pleasure is good, 
will remain. Another cause for the ceasing of passion is weari- 
ness. A runaway horse grows tired of galloping, and similarly a 
runaway passion will in time lose its force. To recognise these 
irrational capacities also allows us to explain how men can be 
bad and passionate. If reason is the sole factor its perversion is 
not intelligible. Realistically Posidonius called attention to the 
facts of human development. The child has a natural affinity 
for pleasure and aversion from pain and a desire for power; 



when smfill it is a creature of passion, kicking and biting to get 
its own way. As it grows older, it begins to have feelings of 
shame and to want to be good; it discovers a new affinity, but 
without losing the former ones. It is in them that the source of 
evil is to be found. 

To the orthodox Stoic, passion, as the result df a faulty judg- 
ment, was to be cured or prevented by an appeal to the intellect; 
fear of death for example, could be stopped by proving to the 
sufferer that death was not a bad thing. Posidonius, seeing the 
root of passions in irrational capacities of the psyche, did not 
suppose that they could be reasoned away. The irrational must 
be treated otherwise. Detailed information about his thera- 
peutic methods is scant. But they seem to have involved treat- 
ment both of the passion itself, which could be compared to a 
passing 'illness, and of the irrational capacity, much as one 
might strengthen a man's constitution to enable him to resist 
disease.^ He probably thought that diet could affect the irra- 
tional elements of the psyche, and he praised Plato's methods 
of training it by physical exercise and by music. 

The recognition of irrational forces in the human psyche, 
shared with brute animals, was one factor that led Posidonius 
to his conception of how men should live. The other was his 
conviction that human reason is of a different order from such 
reasoning as is seen in other animals. It is akin to the reason 
that rules the whole world. Misery, then, lies in not following 
throughout this god* within us, but being sometimes carried 

^The comparison of passion to physical disease was an old one. 
But whereas Chrysippus had compared the state of an ordinary 
imperfect man to that of an unhealthy man, liable to fall ill, 
Posidonius thought him like a physically normal man; the one may 
suffer a passing attack of passion, as the other a passing attack of 
fever. An impaired physical constitution makes a man liable to a 
particular disease, and an impaired moral constitution to a par- 
ticular passion. Any man may be angry, but irascible men are easily 
and frequently angry. 

"Posidonius' word was daimon, a word originally synonymous with 
theos (God), but long used of a being intermediary between gods and 
men. But since Posidonius emphasised the likeness of the daimon 
to the divine ruler of the world, the rendering 'god' will not be 



away off course with the worse and irrational element. The end 
for man is 'to live in contemplation of the truth and order of 
the universe, co-operating so far as possible in bringing it about, 
and in no way led by the irrational in the psyche'. This he re- 
garded as a correct interpretation of the old formula of 'living 
consistently'. His innovations were to place more emphasis on 
active co-operation with the world-order, as opposed to mere 
falling in with it, and explicitly to require the complete sub- 
ordination of the irrational. Subordination, not extinction; it 
had a part to play, to which it was to be trained by habituation. 
Many Greeks believed that in the history of human society 
morality had decayed, and Posidonius was one of them. In the 
world of nature, he said, the leader of the herd is its best mem- 
ber: among animals the most vigorous or the largest, among 
men the most intelligent. There had been a primitive golden age 
when wise men ruled, providently, bravely, and beneficially. 
But vices crept inj kings became tyrants, and the need arose for 
law; yet the first law-givers were still wise men or philosophers. 
These early wise men had also discovered the basic arts of civi- 
lisation: to build houses, to make nets and train dogs for hunt- 
ing, to turn ores into iron and bronze, to invent weaving and 
baking. Seneca, who reports this {Letter 90), could not accept it: 
for him such occupations were below the dignity of a wise man; 
technical inventions were the road to extravagant luxury; the 
recent invention of glass-blowing had not been made by philo- 
sophers. He agreed that there had been a golden age, but then 
all men shared in concord the fruits of the earth, living without 
fear among the beauties of nature, sleeping softly on the hard 
ground beneath the stars. They were innocent men, but not 
wise men; for virtue requires a trained, informed, and exercised 
mind. This fanciful picture of happy primitive man would have 
had no appeal for Posidonius. He recognised that material 
civilisation was valuable; from that it followed that the wise 
man would promote it. His unflagging curiosity interested him 
in technical processes, which he described in detail. The wise 
man will apply his mind in all fields. Posidonius would have 
subscribed to the saying 'knowledge is indivisible'. 

To estimate Posidonius' importance, whether absolutely or 
for the later world, is difficult, because his teaching is very 
unevenly represented in our sources and there is no agreement 



about the extent of his influence. His range of vision, his interest 
in facts, his desire to build a system in which the parts mutually 
supported one another, remind one of Aristotle. But, unlike 
Aristode, he was not profoundly original. His leading ideas, like 
'cosmic sympathy' and the partition of the psychic faculties, 
were taken from others, although applied with thoroughness 
and independence. There is a recendy fashionable tendency to 
build upon the judgment of Galen, who called him 'the most 
scientific of the Stoics' and noted that he had been trained in 
geometry and was accustomed to give demonstrative proofs 
{Views of Hippocrates and Plato, iv 390). But before we hasten 
to make a great scientist of him, it should be remembered that 
he has several times appeared as careless of basic facts. There 
is no doubt that he understood the value of gathering evidence; 
it is less certain that he realised the importance of gathering all 
that was feasible and of testing the reliability of hearsay infor- 
mation. His wide range may explain this weakness, but as a 
scientist he was an amateur compared with an Eratosthenes. 
Still less right is it to see in him a mystic, a falsity now fortu- 
nately obsolescent.'- What can be put to his credit is a readiness 
to adapt the Stoic doctrine where it seemed to him indefensible, 
openly and with a search for the truth not for the minimum 
change necessary to evade the inmiediate attack, and a desire 
to understand in detail this physical world which he believed 
to be the work of divine reason and therefore intelligible to the 
kindred human mind. 

What influence did this have? So far as the Stoics were con- 
cerned, not very much. Doxographers added his name when he 
had maintained the original doctrine and in addition quote his 
authority on astronomy, meteorology, seismology. But his recog- 
nition of irrational factors in the psyche was simply disregarded, 
and inquiry into the world of nature had little attraction for 
most of his successors. Seneca's Problems of Nature provides 

'A strange sentence, on which much has been built, although it is 
no more than a guess that it derives from him, must be mentioned: 
'at any rate, leaving their tabernacles of the sun, they (sc. the souls) 
inhabit the region beneath the moon' (Sextus, Against the Dogmatists 
9.71). The context is one of life after death and the tabernacles 
must be earthly tabernacles. I agree with those who think the sun 
out of place here and its presence in the text due to some mistake. 



an exception, but even this work contains little personal obser- 
vation; it takes the opinions of predecessors and discusses them 
on their intrinsic merits; moreover each book has a climax in a 
rhetorical piece of irrelevant moralising. Posidonius may have 
helped to popularise the idea of the god within man, but other- 
wise there is no trace of him in Epictetus or Marcus Aurelius. 
Outside the Stoic school his scientific work was used, often no 
doubt indirectly; and it has been guessed that he influenced the 
climate of opinion to take an interest in the wonders of nature. 
But that his philosophic thought had any effect on the develop- 
ment of Platonism or on Plotinus or on fathers of the Church 
remains unproven. 


Stoics and Politics 

That philosophy could teach statesmanship was Plato's finn 
belief. He himself unsuccessfully attempted to guide Dionysius 
II at Syracuse, and members of the Academy gave advice at 
several less prominent places. There were monarchs who felt 
that philosophers had something to offer; at the lowest their 
presence would add lustre to the court. Philip of Macedon's 
motives in obtaining Aristotle as an instructor of the boy Alex- 
ander at Pella must remain as obscure as those of Alexander 
himself in taking Aristotle's pupil Callisthenes to Persia. When 
Antigonus Gonatas asked Zeno to come to Macedon, his invi- 
tation was based on real admiration; he may have hoped not 
only for his company but also that he would exercise a good 
influence on the men at court. Zeno would not go, but sent 
Philonides and his young pupil Persaeus, whom Antigonus in 
course of time made civil governor of Corinth, one of the Mace- 
donian garrison-towns. When Corinth was captured by Aratus 
of Sicyon in 243 bg, he either died fighting, as some later Stoics 
believed, or got away in the confusion, as more hostile sources 
claimed. He was not the military commander, as was mali- 
ciously alleged later, and nothing is known of his administration. 
But he wrote a book on kingship", another about the Spartan con- 
stitution, and a long attack on Plato's Laws. Soon after the fall 
of Corinth another of Zeno's pupils, Sphaerus, already an old 
man, went to Sparta, where he tried to influence the young; he 
was admired by Cleomenes, who came to the throne in 235, and 
became associated with him in his reforms. He is also said to 
have been invited to the court of Ptolemy IV Philopator in 
Egypt, but the truth may be that he took refuge there with 
Cleomenes when the latter had to leave Sparta in 221. It is 
possible, however, that he went earlier, at the request of Ptolemy 
III Euergetes, since the invitation is said to have come while 
Cleanthes was still alive. Chrysippus, so it is reported, tihen re- 
fused to go; but the refusal was not based on principle, since 


he regarded service with a king as a suitable source of income 
for a wise man. 

Although these minor figures had parts in the political scene, 
it was remarked that neither Zeno nor Cleanthes nor Chrysip- 
pus, who all declared that a man should take part in the political 
life of his <:ity, ever did anything of the kind at Athens. They 
were of course foreigners, but it was believed that the first two 
could have had citizenship if they had wanted it, and Chrysip- 
pus in fact acquired it. Perhaps they felt that there was not 
much they could achieve in a democracy, even in the limited 
democracy which was all that Athens enjoyed in much of the 
third century. An anecdote represents Chrysippus as answering, 
when asked why he took no part in political life, that bad poli- 
tics would displease the gods and good politics the citizens. To 
act by influencing a sympathetic autocrat or powerful man 
might seem to offer a more effective means of doing good. 
Nevertheless Chrysippus said that a wise man would take part 
in political life, unless there was some obstacle, and that he 
would there speak and act as if wealth, health, and reputation 
were all good things. In other words, to be effective, he must 
use the language of his hearers. 

It is not to be supposed that there was any Stoic political 
programme. Politics are largely concerned with obtaining or 
providing power, status, or material things the value of which 
the Stoics recognised, it is true, but depreciated. The real in- 
terest of these philosophic advisers was with men's moral wel- 
fare, and it may be imagined that their energies were mainly 
devoted not to current issues but to more general preaching 
against fear, anger, and cupidity, in favour of self-control and 
philanthropy. A figure who may form a partial exception is 
Blossius, an Italian from Cumae and pupil of Antipater of 
Tarsus; it was widely said that along with one Diophanes, a 
rhetorician from Mytilene, he urged Tiberius Gracchus on to 
his land reforms. After Tiberius' death he joined Aristonicus, 
who was trying to maintain the independence of Pergamum, 
Irft to the Romans by its last king Attalus III; on the failure of 
this enterprise he committed suicide. It may be guessed that 
Blossius was politically committed, both in Rome and in Perga- 
mum, although the only piece of advice specifically ascribed to 
him was a protest to Tiberius on the day of his assassination, 



urging him not to be intimidated by a crow that had ominously 
dropped a stone in front of him. 

Blossius was not the first philosopher to be associated with a 
Roman politician. When in the later second century bc many 
Romans began to take an interest in Greek culture, some lead- 
ing men became the patrons of Greeks whose profession was 
philosophy. Panaetius had by 140 bg established a firm friend- 
ship with the younger Scipio, who in that year took him as his 
sole companion on a mission to Alexandria and the East; 
through Scipio he exerted an influence on several eminent 
Romans, who accepted Stoicism as a guide. In the next century 
Cicero, although he professed to be a sceptic, took a Stoic philo- 
sopher Diodotus into his house and maintained him until he 
died. Even Pompey thought it proper when in the East to go 
and hear Posidonius at Rhodes. But the younger Cato, a de- 
clared Stoic, was the patron of at least three philosophers of 
that school, Antipater of Tyre, Apollonides, who was with him 
at his death, and Athenodorus of Tarsus, nicknamed "Knobby", 
whom he induced to leave the post of librarian at Pergamum 
and accompany him to Rome. 

Cato was a member of an old family and its traditions des- 
tined him for a political life. He attempted to conduct himself 
according to Stoic principles and what he regarded as old 
Roman standards. He lived simply and even when praetor 
sometimes went barefoot and without a tunic. In the anarchy 
of the later years of the Republic he held firm again and again 
to the view that the law must be respected, showing great cou- 
rage in the physical dangers to which this exposed him. Ad- 
mired for his financial honesty, he made enemies by his attempts 
to impose it on others. No doubt he was mistaken in thinking 
it practicable to restore respect for the law and an out-of-date 
constitution; too much power belonged to those whose interests 
lay in disregarding them.* He was elected to a series of offices 
but failed to win the consulship. To the usual bargaining, com- 
promising politician he would seem an obstinate doctrinaire. 
Yet in the final resort, if it was impossible to preserve legality, he 

•A modern historian may also observe that the law gave un- 
justifiable privileges to the small ruling class to which he belonged. 
But that does not make him a hypocrite. 



would give in: he opposed the claims both of Caesar and of 
Pompey, but in the end, seeing the greater danger in Caesar and 
in Pompey the only means of stopping him, he accepted the 
latter as sole consul, unconstitutional as this was, ready to sup- 
port him loyally for the time. 

After Pompey's death he took some troops by a famous march 
across die Libyan desert to join those who were resisting Caesar 
in North Africa, where he handed over the command to a young 
Scipio who as an ex-consul outranked him. On Scipio's defeat 
at Thapsus Cato, who had remained at Utica, sent his senatorial 
friends back to Italy to make their peace but decided that he 
must take his own life since he could no longer live in the way 
appropriate for him. After reading Plato's Phaedo, he stabbed 
himself with a sword recovered with great difficulty from friends 
who wished to frustrate his intention. When he lost conscious- 
ness they tried to bind him up, but on coming to he tore his 
wounds open with his bare hands and so perished. His career 
and above all his death made him a hero: he had shown himself 
to be unconquerable by adversity. For later Roman Stoics of the 
upper classes he became the ideal prototype, the man who lived 
and died as reason and conscience dictated. 

Another Athenodorus, also from Tarsus, known as 'the Bald', 
had a career worth recounting as it shows what a professional 
philosopher might at this time achieve. Probably a pupil of 
Posidonius, he was appealed to by Cicero for help with the 
third book of his work On Duties; having taught the young 
Octavian, the future Augustus, he became his adviser after his 
elevation to be head of the state; there are stories that he told 
him to govern his temper by saying over the letters of the alpha- 
bet before making a decision, and that he once substituted 
himself for a senator's wife with whom the emperor had an 
assignation, emerging to the other's consternation from her 
closed litter. In his later years he returned to Tarsus with a com- 
mission to change its constitution — the town was under dema- 
gogic control; he obtained for it relief from taxation and when 
he died was given a hero's cult there. Another Stoic, Arius Didy- 
mus, was maintained by Augustus and befriended by Maecenas; 
we have extracts from his summaries of Stoic and of Peripatetic 
doctrines; Seneca reports that the emperor's wife Livia had more 



comfort from him at the death of her son Drusus than from any 
other source {Consolation to Marcia 4). 

Some wealthy Romans, it is clear, found it useful to keep a 
philosopher, and men of distinction did not find the position 
humiliating. They expected to be able to give moral advice and 
comfort to their patrons and their families, while their patrons 
could draw strength from their approval. The relation between 
Seneca and Nero had some similar elements, although Seneca 
was not only a philosopher but also a Roman, ambitious and 
anxious to play his own part in political life. When he found his 
position too difficult and attempted to retire, Nero would not let 
him go, stressing, if Tacitus can be believed, the value of the 
philosopher's counsel and the danger to his own reputation 
should Seneca leave him {Annals 14, 55-6). 

Many Romans were, however, deeply suspicious of philosophy 
and philosophers. Both Nero and Agricola were warned against 
the subject by their mothers, and other instances of criticism 
and prejudice would make a long catalogue. Important though 
the relation between some leading men and philosophers was, 
hostility was at least as powerful a force. No sooner had Seneca 
fallen from favour than an attack was made on Rubellius 
Plautus, like Nero a grandson of Augustus' stepson. He was 
living quietly in Asia, but was said to have 'assmned the arro- 
gance of the Stoics, a sect that turns men into mutinous trouble- 
makers'. He refused to try to raise a revolt, but followed the 
course recommended by his attendant philosophers, Coeranus 
and Musonius (see p. 162), who advised him to meet death 
bravely, not to prolong life's alarms and uncertainties. He was 
murdered by a centurion sent to kill him. His friend Barea 
Soranus, another Stoic, who had been a just governor of Asia 
Minor, was accused of treasonable intentions in winning the 
favour of the provincials, and allowed to commit suicide. The 
same fate befell Thrasea Paetus, a Stoic who had walked out of 
the senate when motions were proposed for celebrating the 
murder of Agrippina. For three years he did not attend its meet- 
ings, and he gathered round himself followers who imitated his 
austere dress and solemn face: this was represented as a chal- 
lenge to the Emperor's way of life. These self-declared cham- 
pions of liberty, it was said, would overthrow the Empire, and 
when it was overthrown, attack the liberty of others. 



It would be a mistake to treat these last accusations too 
seriously and to suppose that Thrasea and his friends had any 
thought of overthrowing the Empire or establishing a Stoic 
tyranny, or indeed that there was any Stoic political pro- 
gramme. The liberty that they claimed was not one which they 
lacked or of which they could be deprived: it. was the liberty 
to act according to conscience, not freedom from the conse- 
quences of so acting. Thrasea found himself unable to join in 
die flatteries heaped on Nero by his fellow senators or to defend 
the crimes that they approved at the Emperor's orders: he was 
therefore an opponent, although a passive one, of this princeps;^ 
but that did not make him an opponent of the piindpate. If he 
had had the fortvme to live under the rule of Hadrian or even 
of Vespasian, he might have had a useful career and been for- 
gotten by history. 

A more radical character was Helvidius Priscus, Thrasea's 
son-in-law, who as a young man attached himself to the Stoics, 
in order to carry himself firmly among the dangers olf political 
life. He was determined always to champion what he saw as 
right, which included the independence of the Senate. Once he 
there opposed the emperor Vitellius, who attended even its 
less important meetings; at the accession of Vespasian his 
honorific speech kept within the bounds of truth; shortly after- 
wards, when the Capitol needed restoration, he proposed that 
the emperor should susidise the empty public purse but that 
the Senate should retain control of the work. When an oppor- 
tunity offered, he attacked Marcellus Eprius, who had played 
a part in Thrasea's fall. He had the approval of the Senate, 
which was eager to punish those of its members who had pro- 
fited by Nero's reign of terror, unlike Vespasian, who wished 
old enmities to be forgotten; Marcellus left the meeting, say- 
ing: T leave your Senate to you, Priscus; act the king there, in 
Caesar's presence.'* 

Helvidius was a praetor, whereas Vespasian held no magis- 
tracy; accordingly he openly criticised the emperor, treating 

^Princeps means 'leading man' in the state. It was a smooth word 
which disguised the fact that Rome had a ruler whose power 
became increasingly absolute. 

*The emperors took the name of Caesar. 



him as if he had been an ordinary senator. He is said to have 
denounced monarchy and praised democracy. Rome had never 
known anything that we or the Greeks would have called demo- 
cracy, and one may guess that if Helvidius used the word he 
thought that the Senate would adequately express the will of 
the people. The Emperor's authority was de facto rather than 
de jure; Helvidius seems to have had the impracticable idea 
that constitutional theory should prevail over the facts of 
power. There is no suggestion in the ancient sources that he was 
the leader of a party of any importance. But he was dangerous 
because he was a bad example; the Emperor required a sub- 
servient Senate, not an opposition.^ 

Before long Helvidius was banished and then put to death, 
perhaps on the order of the Senate itself. More than that all 
teachers of philosophy, except Musonius, were excluded from 
Rome; the Stoics were denounced as self-important men who 
thought that a beard and rough cloak and bare feet made them 
wise, brave, and just, who looked down on their fellow-men, 
calling the well-bom spoilt children, and the base-bom men 
of no spirit, the beautiful indecent and the ugly gifted, the 
rich greedy and the poor slavish. This picture, or caricature, 
has some of its colour from acquaintance with Cynics, one of 
whom, Demetrius, was prominent at Rome at this time. They 
had affinities with the Stoics (see pp. 20, 170) but were anarchists 
on principle, who believed that the price of happiness was to 
shake off man-made law and convention. In ad 75 two Cynics 
got back into the city: one rose in the theatre to denounce 
the spectators and was whipped; the second was beheaded. 
Under Domitian Junius Rusticus, a senator, was executed 
because he had praised Thrasea and Helvidius: this was made 
the occasion to banish all philosophers from the whole of 

'Epictetus shows no interest in Helvidius' political ideas, only in 
his personal autonomy. His story is that Vespasian told him not to 
attend a meeting of the Senate: 'So long as I am a senator, I must 
come.' 'Come, but keep quiet.' 'Don't ask me my views and I will 
say nothing.' 'But I am bound to ask you.' 'And I to say what I think 
right.' 'Then I shall put you to death.' 'Did I ever tell you I was 
immortal? You will do your part, and I shall do mine' {Discourses 



In the century of enlightened government that followed 
after Domitian's tyranny philosophers regained their old place, 
and were widely, although not universally, accepted as educa- 
tors and advisers, and valued as guides to conduct. The em- 
peror Hadrian probably founded professorships for philosophy,^ 
and certainly provided the young Marcus Aurelius with his 
first philosophic teachers. Antoninus Pius, too, brought the 
eminent Stoic Apollonius to Rome as the young man's instruc- 
tor. There the philosopher insisted that the young prince should 
wait on him, not be visited in the palace. Marcus mentions 
among other mentors Q. Junius Rusticus, no doubt related to 
the man of the same name executed by Domitian, a prominent 
figure in public life and later to be Prefect of the City, who 
introduced him to Epictetus' Discourses, lending his own copy, 
and Sextus, Plutarch's nephew, but a Stoic in spite of his 
uncle's determined opposition to the school. 

If it is asked what effect these teachers, of whom most were 
Stoics, had upon politics and social conditions, one cannot 
point to any specific piece of legislature or social change. Stoic 
ethics were primarily concerned with the individual, and the 
object of moral teaching was to make him a better man. More 
and more this came to be looked on as a matter of ridding him 
of his passions; they were psychological diseases and the philo- 
sopher was the doctor oif the soul. Stoics might hold that some 
men, whose social position called them to it, had the duty of 
playing a role in political life. When the younger Pliny com- 
plained to the respected Stoic teacher Euphrates of the burden 
of public duties, he was told that they were the finest part of 
philosophy (Letters 1.10). But Stoicism had no sort of political 
programme; there was only the generalised injunction to act 
sensibly and justly. Nor was a Stoic likely to be filled with a 
desire to improve men's material conditions; his principles 
told him that they were irrelevant to their welfare, common 
opinion regarded them as incapable of much improvement, 
and his philosophy took them to be the work of Providence. 

^Significantly he was the first Roman emperor to wear a beard, a 
practice continued by his successors down to and including Septimius 



Nevertheless Stoicism must have had some undefinable general 
influence that favoured conscientious administration for the 
benefit of the ordinary man and a humanitarianism that re- 
sulted in a little legislation and some charitable foundations. 
The Greco-Roman world would have been a worse place with- 
out its philosophers. 


The Later Stoics 

The first two centuries ad were the age which produced the 
greater part of the Stoic literature that still survives. Its authors 
were very varied. Some made their teaching or writing their 
main business j these included Musonius, a well-to-do man from 
Etruria, Epictetus, a Greek freedman, and probably Hierocles, 
of whose life nothing is known. Seneca was a spare-time 
amateur philosopher and Marcus Aurelius was the Emperor. 
But, with the possible exception of Hierocles, they had in com- 
mon a dose connexion with Rome, where they were all intro- 
duced to philosophy. The capital city was a place where teachers 
of Stoicism were active; little is known of them beyond the 
names of a nvunber. Yet it may be supposed that like their 
pupils they saw in Stoic philosophy an established system of 
beliefs that would comfort, guide, and support a man in the 
difficulties and dangers of life. 


No Stoic author has exerted a greater influence on posterity 
than Seneca. Because he wrote in Latin he was immediately 
accessible to literary men after the revival of learning; his 
moralising was to the taste of that age; and his epigrammatic, 
exaggerated style made quotation from him easy and effective. 
Yet his work as a philosopher, or rather as a writer on themes 
drawn from philosophy, occupied only a part of his attention; 
his main interest was in pubUc life; when that was closed to 
him he turned to writing, persuading himself that this was the 
better course. It would be wrong to suppose that his thought, 
speech, and actions as a political figure were unaffected by the 
philosophical principles that he had learned as a young man; 
on the other hand his writings cannot be understood without 
reference to the events of his life. 

Bom in the year ad 1 at Corduba in Spain, a town with many 
Roman inhabitants, he was the son of a Seneca whom we dis- 
tinguish as 'the elder', himself a Roman citizen and an author 



with a great interest in the rhetoricians whose ingenious show- 
pieces of declamation attracted public attention now that 
neither law-courts nor politics offered the same scope to the 
orator that they had done under the republic. His father brought 
him to Rome as a boy, to study rhetoric and philosophy. He 
was deeply moved by his teachers, in particular by Sotio, who 
seems to have combined some Pythagorean doctrine with cur- 
rent moralising, by Attalus, a Stoic, and by Papirius Fabianus, 
whose copious philosophical writings were adorned by the 
stylistic devices of the rhetoric that had once been his sole 
pursuit. For a whole year the yoimg Seneca adopted a vege- 
tarian diet on grounds of principle, until his father warned him 
that such eccentricity was no recommendation in an aspirant 
to a political career. To this he now turned, and filled some 
minor offices, but his progress was interrupted by an illness of 
which the symptoms were emaciation and acute depression and 
which caused him to retire for some years to Egypt. Returning 
at the age of thirty, he obtained the quaestorship, entered the 
Senate, and by his eloquence there and in the law-courts made 
both reputation and money. The accession of the mad Caligula 
to the throne in ad 37 made it dangerous to be prominent, and 
after conducting a brilliant prosecution he is said to have been 
saved from death only by the intervention of one oif the em- 
peror's mistresses, who represented the orator as already having 
one foot in the grave; his health must again have been im- 
paired. It was not Caligula, but his successor Claudius who 
struck a shattering blow. In ad 41 Seneca was accused of 
adultery with the emperor's sister, condemned unheard, and 
exiled to Corsica. Possibly he was the innocent victim of a 
plot by Messalina, Claudius' wife, and the powerful imperial 
freedmen who worked with her. He attempted to console him- 
self vfith his philosophical principles; he wrote to his mother 
Helvia a Consolation full of the proper sentiments according 
to which exile was no evil but an opportunity, and he tried to 
occupy himself with geographical observations and the com- 
position of poetry. But he was miserable in his isolation and 
when the son of Polybius, one of Claudius' freedmen, died, he 
addressed to the father a Consolation which was the excuse 
for flattering the recipient and the emperor and for pleas for 
his own pardon. That, however, had to wait until Messalina 


had been replaced by Agrippina, who had him recalled after 
eight years of exile and put him in charge of the education of 
her son, the young Nero. She had no liking for philosophy and 
presumably saw in Seneca a man of letters with experience of 
public life. In ad 54 Claudius died; Seneca wrote a laudatory 
memorial speech for Nero to deliver, and took revenge for his 
exile by the Apocolocyntosis (pumpkinification), a satire on the 
deification of the dead man, which in the worst of taste makes 
game of physical disabilities and sneers at his intellectual and 
moral deficiencies. Seneca had now reached the peak of his 
career; he had already been a praetor under Claudius and in 
56 he was to hold the consulship. But that was more an honour 
than a position of power; power came from the fact that Nero 
left a large share of government to him and his friend Burrus, 
commander of the praetorian guard. They were doubtless right 
in thinking themselves more competent than the young man, 
whom they diverted by encouraging his artistic ambitions and 
a liaison with a freedwoman. Of this Agrippina disapproved; 
she became estranged and was suspected of plotting to replace 
Nero by Claudius' son Germanicus, a danger ended by his 
death, perhaps due to poison. But Nero became increasingly 
independent and his actions increasingly criminal; in 59, hav- 
ing failed in an attempt to have his mother 'accidentally' 
drowned, he feared that she might strike back by attempting 
a revolution. Seneca, according to Tacitus, asked Burrus 
whether the troops could be commanded to kill her; he replied 
that they had too much sympathy for her, and her death was 
entrusted to a freedman officer of the fleet and reported to the 
Senate by the emperor in a message clearly written by the 

The death of Burrus in 62 left Seneca, already the object of 
attack by envious senators, in an exposed position and he asked 
to be allowed to retire and to return the wealth he had acquired 
from the emperor. The request was refused, but effectively he 
withdrew from public affairs to busy himself with what are 
perhaps the most substantial of his writings. Questions about 
Nature and Letters on Morality, both addressed to his younger 
friend Lucilius. Accused in 65 of complicity in the conspiracy 
of Piso, he felt that he had no option but to obey Nero's com- 
mand to commit suicide. 



Thus although ideEis drawn from philosophers were always 
of importance to Seneca, primarily he was not a philosopher 
but a rhetorician, a senator, a man at the heart of public affairs. 
His writings often sprang from his own situations to meet his 
own needs. Unfortunately many cannot be securely dated, but 
of some the occasion is clear. 

On Anger (c. ad 41) is a show-piece, addressed to his elder 
brother, who was the Gallio before whom St Paul was arraigned 
in Corinth. In the first book anger is defined and denounced; 
the Peripatetic view that in moderation it is a useful emotion is 
attacked. The second book begins by examining how anger 
arises; an apparent injury causes an automatic disturbance of 
the mind; if that is followed by a judgment that an injury has 
been suffered and ought to be punished, the disturbance be- 
comes a drive that gets out of hand and no longer obeys reason. 
The necessary part played by the judgment gives die assur- 
ance that anger can be resisted, for the judgment, which is 
false, need not be made. If anger were an independent emotion 
there would be no way of preventing it. The next section re- 
turns to the point that anger is neither useful nor defensible; 
finally advice is given on how to avoid it. The third book opens 
with the intention of explaining how to check anger in others, 
but does not reach this subject until the final chapters, being 
mainly concerned with the restraint of one's own temper. The 
construction of the whole work is therefore very loose, and 
Seneca's grasp of his principles is weak: he distinguishes anger 
from cruelty, but many of his anecdotes illustrate the latter 
rather than the former; at one point he argues that animals 
cannot be angry, but at another that there is no beast so dread- 
ful that anger does not make it appear even more savage 
(I. 1.6, 3.5^7). 

On Clemency, apparently written in ad 56^ (I. 9.1) but never 

*The passage that dates the work gives false information about the 
young Octavian. By an ingenious emendation F. Pr&hac (Bud6 
edn. p. cxxvi) avoids the error and changes the date to ad 55. He 
believes the work to have been written very shortly after Nero's 
accession, when he could still be honestly praised. To me this seems 
to be excluded by too many passages that imply at least some 
months of jwwer. But as so often with Seneca one cannot be quite 
confident what is meant. 



finished, is addressed to the young Nero and attempts to recom- 
mend this traditional Roman virtue. Clemency, says Seneca, is 
not to be confused with pardon, the remission of a properly 
determined punishment; it must be wrong to alter a sentence 
that was correct. Nor is it to be confused with the distracting 
emotion of pity. 'I know,' he says, 'that the Stoics have a bad 
reputation among the ignorant as being too hard and most 
unlikely to give rulers good advice . . . but no school is more 
kindly, more loving of mankind, more attentive to the common 
good.' Clemency is to be seen as a rational-avoidance of cruelty. 
Although the regular courts and occasionally the Senate dealt 
with criminal charges, many cases were left to the emperor's 
decision. Seneca argues that the right punishment will often 
be a mild one or none at all: extreme rigour is rarely called 
for; this after all is the way in which a father brings up his 
children. Harsh treatment actually encourages crime and ex- 
poses the ruler to danger; many criminals will reform if given 
a chance. He recognises that the emperor can as a matter of 
fact break the law, and suggests that to break it can be justified; 
the emperor is the directing mind of the body politic and 
therefore not to be trammelled by rules. But the important 
thing is that he should disregard rules only at the dictate of 
reason, not at that of anger. 

The warnings against anger and its offspring cruelty are 
emphatic enough to make one think that Seneca was not blind 
to his pupil's weakness. The young prince is frequently praised 
as an exemplar of clemency and is made to boast that he has 
spared the blood of even the most worthless men. He is con- 
gratulated on his innocence, and told that no individual has 
ever been so dear to another as he is to the Roman people. 
Clearly the object of the work is to appeal to his better feelings 
and to engage him in the path of virtue. But was not the appeal 
too late? He had already caused the murder of his brother 
Britannicus early in 55 and begun the nocturnal brawling in 
the streets that led to the death of Silanus, who had recognised 
him. Seneca stands accused of flattery and falsehood and must 
be found guilty. But probably he believed that these subter- 
fuges offered the best hope of drawing Nero back from the 
dangerous course on which he had entered. Publicly to reprove 
him could do no good, but he might attempt to preserve an 



attractive image that was painted for him. Perhaps Seneca 
abandoned the treatise on realising that this hope was not to 
be fulfilled. 

Three short works are addressed to Serenus, a friend whom 
he converted from Epicureanism. The Constancy of the Wise 
Man argues that nothing is an injury unless the person attacked 
thinks it is one; the wise man has neither hopes nor fears; his 
stability cannot be shaken by external events : 

'Fortune', says Epicurus, 'rarely touches the wise.' How near 
he came to saying what a real man would say! Are you 
ready to speak more courageously and put fortune away ab- 
solutely? The wise man's cottage, where there is no splen- 
dour, no bustle, no elaboration, is guarded by no doorkeepers 
to sort out the crowd with an insolence that asks to be bribed, 
but Fortune does not cross that empty threshold on which 
no janitor stands : she knows there is no place for her where 
she owns nothing. 

This, Seneca continues is no impossible ideal; it was attained, 
perhaps even exceeded (a typical meaningless exaggeration) 
by Cato. 

Calm of Mind is written with more verve than order. One 
of the most interesting sections is that in which Seneca reports 
the opinion of the Stoic Athenodorus, who although favouring 
political activity in principle thought that in the world as it 
was the good man had no hope of success; he would be more 
effective by remaining in private life and preaching virtue. This, 
Seneca replies, is too pessimistic; if one is forced to retreat from 
public life, one should do it step by step, understand the limits 
of one's power and look for a way of being useful within them. 
This work may have been written during the first years of 
Nero's reign, and the earlier Constancy of the Wise before 
Seneca's recall from exile, to picture the man he would have 
liked to be and wished to be thought. These are uncertain 
guesses; but there can be no doubt that the third work, On 
Leisure, dates from his last years. Only a fragment survives, 
in which he answers the criticism of Serenus, who reproves him 
for taking no part in public life. Retirement and quiet have 
now become the wise man's choice. The intellectual life is 


preferable to that of action. A lifetime is not enough for the 
study of nature. Zeno and Chrysippus did more for posterity 
than if they had commanded armies or carried laws; they legis- 
lated for humanity not for a single state. In the lost conclusion 
he seems to have maintained that by his public service he had 
earned his retirement. 

The Shortness of Life also recommends turning one's back 
on business of all kinds. Life is long if one knows how to use it, 
Paulinus, to whom the work is addressed, is advised to aban- 
don the administration of the corn-supply and retire to quieter, 
safer, and greater pursuits, the investigation of the laws of 
nature and the love of virtue. The work apparently belongs to 
49; written in Rome, it therefore suggests that Seneca's 
appointment as Nero's tutor did not immediately follow his 
recall. The Happy Life begins by making happiness the result 
of virtue and then develops at length the view that pleasure 
should never be our goal, even a subsidiary goal. From this 
Seneca turns to an impassioned attack on those who criticise 
philosophers for not living up to their precepts. Philosophers 
do not claim to be perfect, but they are immensely superior 
to their critics. (Seneca adds somewhat unconvincingly that he 
is not speaking for himself; he is sunk in the depth of every 
vice.) 'If those who follow virtue are avaricious, lustful, am- 
bitious, what are you who hate the very name of virtue?' 
"You, who hate virtue and the man who cultivates it, are doing 
nothing new. Sick eyes fear the sun and nocturnal animals 
shun the brilliance of the day . . . Groan and exercise your 
tongues by insulting the good ! Gape and bite ! You will break 
your teeth much sooner than make any mark.' There follows 
a long answer to the question how a philosopher can justify 
his possession of riches. Here can be heard the accents of self- 
defence. In 58 a man on trial had attacked Seneca as more 
guilty than himself: 'what philosophical principles had caused 
him to acquire 300 million sesterces in less than four years of 
imperial favour?' He replies according to orthodox Stoic teach- 
ing that wealth, although not a good, is not to be rejected or 
despised; it allows virtue a wider field of action. It must of 
course be honestly acquired and properly used; to give money 
away correctly is no easy task. What matters above all is the 
right mental attitude: 



Place me in the wealthiest home, where gold and silver are in 
common use: I shall not think well of myself for that; they 
may be in my house, but they are not in me. Remove me to 
the Bridge of Piles and set me among the destitute: I shall 
not despise myself because I am seated among those who 
stretch out their hand for alms. If a man does not lack the 
power to die, what does he care if he lacks a crust? But what 
follows from this? I still prefer that splendid home to the 
bridge ... I shall not believe myself a scrap happier because 
I have a soft pillow and my guests lie on purple; I shall not 
be a scrap more miserable if my tired shoulders rest on a 
handful of straw. But what follows from this? I would still 
rather show what sort of a spirit I have in a magistrate's 
cloak than with a bare back (25. 1-2). 

On Providence seems to be late also; like Questions about 
Nature and Letters on Morality, it is addressed to Lucilius, 
who is represented as asking why many evils befall good men, 
if Providence rules the world. In his reply Seneca uses die terms 
'evil' and 'good' now in the narrow Stoic sense, now in the 
popular way, which does not make for clarity of expression. 
But certain ideas stand out. The world of nature is planned and 
regular, so it would be absurd if Providence did not plan what 
happens to men. To be virtuous we must not be shaken by those 
'inconveniences' that are popularly called 'evils'. Such stability 
comes only of practice. G!od therefore exercises those whom 
he loves, and he welcomes the, sight of a great man struggling 
successfully with calamities. Fortune does not attack the weak, 
but those who are worthy adversaries. If God were to bring 
'evils' upon bad men only, the world would think them truly 
evil. By giving 'good things' to bad men he shows that they are 
not truly good. We should not resent anything that happens; 
it is all predetermined and part of one great plan, in which 
many 'calamities' are necessary concomitants of what is good. 
'There is much that is sad, horrible, hard to bear', complains a 
recusant. 'Yes', God might reply, 'and since I could not exempt 
you from such things, I have armed your minds against them 
all. Bear them bravely. That is how you can surpass God: he 
cannot suffer evil, you are above suffering it . . . Above all I 
have seen to it that nothing should detain you against your will. 


The way out is open. If you do not wish to fight, you can flee. 
I have made nothing easier than to die.' (6. 6-7.) The thought 
that death is a refuge from the stresses and pains of life is 
characteristic of Seneca; to contemplate death and its inevit- 
ability fascinated him; he was glad that we are dying from 
the moment of our birth. More oiften than not he believed, or 
hoped, that the soul would pass on to an abode in the sky; but 
when it suited his argument, he could declare that deadi was 
extinction (e.g. Letters, 54. 4-5, 77. 1 1, 99. 30). 

The last of the seven books On Services Rendered} was 
written in 64 and the first may be as late as 62. Much atten- 
tion is paid to the return of help and kindness, to gratitude and 
ingratitude and their effect on giver and recipient. At times 
Seneca may have an eye to his relations with Nero, but for the 
most part he seems to be developing material provided by 
earlier writers; one of these may be Hecato, who is several 
times quoted. There is a good deal of casuistry in an attempt to 
determine what does or does not constitute a service and where 
the line is to be drawn between gratitude and ingratitude. The 
work lacks structure; even within a single paragraph Seneca 
leaps from one thought to another; indeed in search of epi- 
gram he sometimes transcends thought. But there is much of 
interest: illustrative anecdotes drawn from his own lifetime, 
side-lights on contemporary society, and shrewd psychological 

The 124 surviving Letters on Morality include some of 
Seneca's most satisfying writing. The form excuses looseness 
of construction and excludes excessive elaboration. Particularly 
in the later letters he tries to state and discuss problems that had 
exercised Stoic philosophers. In several places here he shows a 
knowledge of Posidonius, with whom he is not always ready 
to agree (cf. p. 137). A feature of letters 10-30 is that almost 
every one contains a quotation from Epicurus. Seneca did not 
rejid him to find new ideas, but for the forceful expression of 
old truths, delighted to find that in spite of false principles he 
often arrives at correct practical conclusions. These are the 
property not of his school but of the world. 

We Beneficiis; no English word adequately represents the Latin, 
which covers gifts, favours, and volimtary services of all kinds. 



Written at the same time, namely the last two or three years 
of Seneca's life. Questions about Nature concern themselves 
with what he regards as the other half of philosophy, for he 
had no interest in logic. He comes near to claiming that it is 
the superior half. Knowledge of the physical world, he asserts, 
is what m£ikes life worth living. One rises above the miseries of 
the human condition, to know God, who controls everything, as 
the mind of the universe. But although this escape is possible 
only for the man who has made moral progress, such a one will 
not be firm in his contempt for the usual objects of himian am- 
bition until his mind has voyaged through the heavens and seen 
the puny insignificance of the earth. Because he thus recognises 
the connection of physics and morality, Seneca may have felt 
himself justified in introducing a number of moral diatribes into 
this scientific work. But they are arbitrarily attached without any 
genuine connexion, in one case without even an excuse 'Allow 
me', he says, 'to put the problem aside and to chastise luxury". 
The subjects with which Seneca deals are these: meteors, haloes 
and rainbows, thunderbolts and thunder, springs and the 
future flood that will end all life, the Nile, hail and snow, winds, 
earthquakes, and comets. His treatment of the various topics is 
deliberately varied; sometimes he simply exposes what he takes 
to be the truth, at other times he passes in review a large number 
of previous opinions. He found some material in Posidonius, 
probably more than he acknowledges; but he did not hesitate 
also to disagree with him; 'in general his sources cannot be deter- 
mined, nor is it clear how much of his argument is his own. So, 
when he adopts the view that comets are permanent bodies like 
the planets and that their orbits still await discovery, the con- 
siderations he advances against the generally accepted explana- 
tion, according to which they are temporary outbreaks df fire, 
may or may not be original, but in any case he deserves credit 
for seeing their strength. 

Seneca ends his Questions by reflecting how little is known or 
even can be known about the works of God. But 'the people of 
a coming age will know many things that we do not; much is 
reserved for the generations to be, when all memory of us has 
been lost'. Then he turns to moralising: 'the one thing to which 
we devote our minds completely is not yet achieved, the ultimate 
in badness; our vices are still on the advance . . . We have not 



yet quite cast aside our moral fibre; we are still engaged in put- 
ting an end to whatever good conduct remains with us.' It is 
characteristic that not so long before, after a bitter denunciation 
of the immorality of his times, he had insisted that no age is 
more than marginally better than another: the amount of crime 
is almost constant, only its direction changes, as one vice sup- 
plants another in popularity (On Services Rendered I 9-10). 
Such inconsistencies are not uncommon: 'he took too little 
trouble with philosophy', says Quintilian. On Clemency makes 
the emperor boast with Seneca's approval that he has put away 
severitas (sternness) and that when he had found no other reason 
for showing pity he has spared himself (sc. spared himself the 
unpleasantness of inflicting punishment); but later in the same 
work severitas is a virtue and pity a vice. Sometimes virtue 
seems to be within easy reach, at others it is a hardly attainable 
ideal. Usually he follows Chrysippean orthodoxy in holding that 
the soul or psyche is one and rational, passions being mistaken 
judgments, but occasionally he distinguishes an independent 
irrational element. 

More than once Seneca declares that he is not bovuid by 
orthodoxy. There are however few places where he puts for- 
ward views that he claims to be original. Yet there are in his 
psychology certain features which are first met in him. One 
perhaps c£ime from Sotio. He recognises that a wise man will 
not be unmoved by external events; just as his body must auto- 
matically react to pain, so his soul must react to misfortune; his 
country's ruin will not leave him untouched and the sight of a 
loved one lying dead may stir him to weep. But these spon- 
taneous and inevitable feelings are no more than propatheied 
or preliminaries to passion; passion is an excess which follows 
on a faulty judgment, and that requires a man's active consent, 
which the wise man will not give. This analysis took account of 
the facts of experience and did not demand an impossible and 
repugnant insensibility;^ resistance to passion was also made 
more feasible, since the preliminary feeling gave warning of its 
possible approach. 

Another concept to gain in importance is that of 'will', which 

'Chrysippus may have led the way; see Cicero, Talks at Tusculum 
3.83, and Aulus GeUius 19.1.14 ff. 



Seneca used without considering how it could be fitted into 
orthodcHcy. 'What do you need to be good ?' 'The will to be good'. 
'A large part of progress is to have the will to advance; I am 
conscious of that; I will it and will it with all my mind.' 'You 
cannot be taught to will.' This is something new in Stoicism, 
which had been marked by an exaggerated inteUectualism. A 
fiuther important concept is that of 'conscience'. By that he 
means awareness of having done right or wrong; the one is a 
'good conscience' and the reward of doing right, more import- 
ant than reputation or repayment, whereas awareness of wrong- 
doing brings fear, which is a proof that we have a natural 
abhorrence of crime. He does not mean by the word any inner 
monitor or judge, although he believes liiat there is such an 
element within man; the mind can examine itself. He recoimts 
how he had learned this habit from Sextius : 

How peaceful, how deep and undisturbed is the sleep that 
follows on self-examination, when the mind has been given 
its praise or admonition and, acting as its own secret investi- 
gator or censor, has passed judgment on its own character. 
Every day I put my own case to myself: when the light has 
been removed and my wife, who knows my habit, has fallen 
silent, I examine my whole day, go over my doings and my 
sayings; I hide nothing from myself and I pass nothing over 
{On Anger 3.36). 

For posterity Seneca was a dramatist as much as a moralist. His 
eight, perhaps nine,^ tragedies were powerful influences in the 
sixteenth century and then on the French classical drama. Not 
unexpectedly there are to be found in them ideas that were en- 
tertained by philosophers and by Stoics in particular, the dan- 
gers of wealth, power, and luxury, the value of a simple life, the 
blinding effects of passion, the ineluctability of Fate. But that 
does not make them Stoic dramas. The exception is Hercules 
on Oeta, in which the hero has many of the traits of the Stoic 
ideal man; but its authenticity is disputed, since in other ways 
it is unlike the rest. They, although touched by Seneca's know- 
ledge of philosophy, are primarily dramatic. They are concerned 

•A tenth, Octaoia, cannot be by him. 


with the effects of the passions and the blows of Fortune. For 
the Stoic Fortune was to be identified with Fate and Providence, 
for the dramatist it is a blind and hostile power; for the Stoic 
the passions are sequels of faulty judgment, for the dramatist 
they are independent forces that fight with reason and pervert 
it for their own ends. Seneca's characters are not so much 
human beings as simplified exponents of anger, jealousy, cruelty, 
fear, pride, and the no less dangerous love, passions which brush 
aside the argimients of those who speak for reason and modera- 
tion. To depict these things he uses all the resources he has 
learnt from his rhetorical training; short, sharp exchanges, long 
speeches of self-analysis, epigram, antithesis, exaggeration. He 
piles on the agony and tries to make his words create an atmos- 
phere of horror, with which the usually quiet intermezzi of the 
chorus contrast. 

Neither the date nor the purpose of these tragedies is known. 
It is no more than a guess that some at least were written during 
his exile. That they were not intended for the stage is often 
asserted and may be true, but does not follow from their nature. 
One age will welcome plays that another will find intolerable. 
Certainly Seneca made scenes follow one another arbitrarily, 
was not concerned to account for his characters' coming and 
going, relied on verbal, not visual, effects, required a knowledge 
of mythology in his audience. But, for anything that is known, 
these may have been characteristics of later Greek tragedy. 
Many scholars suppose that Senecan tragedy was meant for 
private declamation. But what will hold the attention if de- 
claimed will be even more gripping if acted. A declamation, 
however, was easy to arrange; we do not know what were the 
opportunities for a theatrical performance. 

It is hard for the Englishman of today to approach Seneca 
with sympathy. The distasteful flatteries by which he tried to 
secure his return from exile and the mockery in The Pumpkini- 
fication of the late emperor's physical disabilities do not 
recommend him. As Nero's tutor or mentor he maintain- 
ed his position by acquiescing in crimes that culminated in 
matricide, and during the ten years of power or influence accu- 
mulated for himself a huge fortune. His sudden and forcible 
calling-in of loans that he had made to leading Britons was 



among the causes of Boadicea's revolt.^ When this man writes 
books of moralising they hardly ring true. Nor are they helped 
by his style; as Seneca piles epigram upon epigram, we sense his 
satisfaction with his own cleverness and remember that he had 
been trained by rhetoricians as well as the Stoic teachers Sotio 
and Attalus. He seems insincere and a windbag, 'repeating the 
same sentiment a thousand times dressed up in different ways' 
(Frontop. 157N). 

Yet he deserves pity and understanding. Driven by ambition, 
struggling with ill-health, surrounded by the temptations and 
the dangers of a rotten society, he found that philosophic ex- 
hortations to virtue too often shed but a feeble light. It is rarely 
that among the choices open to a man of affairs there is any that 
is entirely good: frequently he must accept the least of the 
possible evils. There is no place in politics for perfection. 
Thrasea Paetus may have kept his conscience clean, but he 
achieved nothing but his own death. Seneca may have smirched 
himself more than he need, but he deserves some credit for the 
Quinquennium Neronis, the period of good administration with 
which the reign opened. His philosophy was a fitful guide, but 
he would have been a worse and an unhappier man without it. 


C. Musonius Ruf us took up the teaching of philosophy, a career 
usually left to Greeks, and his pupils ranged from the slave 
Epictetus to the future consul G. Minucius Fundanus. But he 
was not merely a teacher; he tried to take a part in public 
affairs. Suspected of involvement in the conspiracy of Piso, he 
was banished by Nero to the barren island of Gyarus. Recalled 
by Galba, he went out to meet Vespasian's approaching army 
outside Rome and attempted to preach the blessings of peace to 
the common soldiers, who treated him with ribaldry. Later in 
the same year he prosecuted Egnatius Celer, a professed Stoic 
who had given false evidence against Barea Soranus. Vespasian 
exempted him from the expulsion of philosophers in 71 ad but 
later withdrew the exemption. He is not known to have written 

^Dio Cassius 62.2. I keep the traditional name Boadicea for this 
queen of the Iceni, a tribe of eastern Britain — Boudicca is more 



anything; his influence must have been due to his personality. 
A pupil, one Lucius, used Greek (which may have been the 
language of Musonius' discourses) to record some of his teach- 
ing; extracts survive, all being practical moralising, in which 
specifically Stoic doctrine has a very narrow place. He makes 
some use of the denial that anything morally indifferent is good 
or bad : the proofs of this should, he says, constantiy be repeated; 
it is a truth which demonstrates that exile cannot rob a man of 
anything really good. But Lucius does not make him insist that 
only a perfect man can be called good; he says that the philo- 
sopher claims to be a good man and he talks as if virtue were in 

His practical advice urges simplicity of life: the hair should 
be cut only enough to avoid discomfort or inconvenience; food 
should be simple, preferably uncooked, and vegetarian (the ex- 
halations of meat are bad for the intellect); fancy foods are not 
required even by the sick, since slaves are treated without the 
use of such diets; clothes should be for protection, not show, to 
harden not to spoil the body; if you can go without shirt or 
shoes, so much the better. One would like to know how much 
effect this had on his hearers' conduct. At the least dislike of 
extravagance must have been fortified; at the most there were 
at this time followers of 'philosophy' whose thick beards and 
unshod feet marked them out from the common run of those 
with whom they associated. 

Musonius' views on marriage throw some light on attitudes 
of his time. He condemns refusal to let more than the first-bom 
children of a marriage live, less on moral grounds than because 
a large family is more powerful. He thinks it shameful for a 
husband to have sexual intercourse with slaves, a thing not 
allowed to the wife; in fact he regards pleasure as a bad reason 
for intercourse, which should be for the sake of procreation. Yet 
he speaks even more warmly than Antipater had done (p. 118) of 
the joys of marriage. 'What comrade gives his comrade such 
pleasure as a wife after his heart gives a married man? What 
brother so pleases his brother, what son his parents? Who longs 
for an absent one as a man does for his wife and a wife for her 

In a discussion of how a philosopher may best make a living, 
Musonius recommends employment as a shepherd. There may 



not in fact have been any Stoic shepherds and Musonius had 
himself no intention of taking to the hills. But the advice is a 
reminder that philosophy is seen as an activity that needs neither 
books nor discussion nor an audience, and that the word 'philo- 
sopher' covers both the 'professional' teacher and his pupil, who 
may want no more than a framework of belief to guide his life, 
whether that be in politics or withdrawn from the world. 


Epictetus, a slave from Phrygia, belonged to Nero's freedman 
Epaphroditus; on being liberated, he became a teacher of 
Stoicism, to which he had been converted by Musonius. When 
Domitian banished philosophers from the capital (ad 92 or 95), 
he withdrew to Nicopolis on the eastern shore of the Adriatic, 
where many people came to hear him. Among them was the 
historian and future administrator Arrian, who published eight 
volumes of his Discourses, based on short-hand notes made 
about 115. Four of those volumes survive, to give a vivid picture 
of his personality, his methods of teaching, and his pupils. The 
Discourses do not reproduce his formal instruction, which was 
systematic and based on the classic writings of the early Stoics. 
They may be called short sermons, some prompted by a ques- 
tion from a pupil, others by the presence of someone who is 
preached at; but of most the occasion is not recorded. Homely 
illustrations, imaginary dialogue, vigour and indeed fervour of 
language, combine to make even the printed word remarkably 
effective; those who heard him, Arrian reports, could not help 
but feel exactly what he wanted them to feel. Although these 
are occasional talks, they are unified by the repetition in con- 
stantly varied guise of certain principles which for Epictetus 
constitute the essence of his message.^ 

^There is also The Handbook, a selection made by Arrian of 53 
extracts, some slightly modified, from the whole work. This became 
very popular; the neo-Platonist Simplicius' commentary (c. ad 535) 
and two Christianised versions, one doubtfully ascribed to St. Nilus 
(c. AD 430), still survive. In the modern world there have been 
numerous editions and translations into many languages. Not only 
was Epictetus a powerful influence on thinkers such as Pascal, but 
he was also, and more remarkably, admired by men of action, 
Toussaint L'Ouverture and Frederick the Great. 



The most important of his beliefs is the distinction between 
what is in man's power and what is not : 

In our power are our way of thinking, conation, appetition, 
and aversion; in a word all that is our doing. Not in our power 
are our body, our possessions, reputation and office; in a word 
all that is not our doing. What is in our power is of its nature 
free; it cannot be prevented, it cannot be hindered. What is 
not in our power is weak, the slave of circumstance, liable to 
be stopped, in the control of others. Remember then that if 
you take to be free what is of its nature enslaved and think 
what belongs to others to be your own, you will be obstructed, 
you will grieve, you will be disturbed, you will blame gods 
and men; but if you think that nothing is yours but what is 
yours and that the alien is alien, no one will ever compel you, 
no one will stop you, you will blame no one, you will do 
nothing against your will, no one will harm you, you will 
have no enemy, for you will suffer no hurt {Handbook 1). 

Freedom is a word ever recurring in Epictetus. From his per- 
sonal experience he had learned that although the body might 
be enslaved, a man could be master of his own thought and make 
his own decisions and judgments. The mind, he says, is free: 
man can decide what he wants. Various ideas present them- 
selves or are suggested by others, and happiness depends on the 
way they are treated. The right way is not to think that things 
in the external world, which includes one's own body, are good 
or bad, not to want them or to fear them, but to accept them. 
One cannot control these things; one must take them as they 
come. TDo not try to make what happens happen as you wish, 
but wish for what happens in the way it happens and then the 
current of your life will flow easily" [Handbook 8). 

Essentially what man controls, or in a sense what man is, is his 
prohairesis, his moral purpose or basic choice of principle. Epic- 
tetus is the first Stoic known to have made this an important 
technical term. By it he means a general attitude towards life, 
an assignment of value which determines the way in which we 
'treat our presentations'. This phrase was often used by him, and 
he takes it for granted that it will be understood. It would seem 
that what he had in mind was something like this : we receive 



from the outside world presentations, for example 'there is a 
gold ring', or 'my son is ill'j within us is a power of 'treating" 
tiiese, by which we may judge that the gold ring is desirable or 
that our son's illness is a bad thing. These judgments are wrong; 
one ought to say 'the ring is unimportant' and 'my son's illness 
does not harm me'. If a man has the right general principles 
and holds to them, he will judge as he ought to judge. Not only 
will he be unaffected by desire and regret, unmoved by the plea- 
sures and pains of the outer world, he will also maintain the 
independence of his thought, never allowing himself to be lured 
or forced into conduct that his conscience would not approve. 

'Then you philosophers inculcate contempt for the governors 
of the state?' Heaven forbid ! Which oif us teaches men to dis- 
pute the rulers' rights over what is in their power? Take my 
wretched body, take my property, my reputation, those who are 
near me. 'Yes, but I want to rule your thoughts too.' And who 
has given you that power? How can you overcome another 
man's thought? 'I shall overcome it by intimidation.' You do 
not know that thought can be overcome by itself, but by nothing 
else {Discourses I. 29. 9-12). 

Although he accepted the orthodox view that there were dif- 
ferences in the normal values of external things, Epictetus' sharp 
distinction between them and man's internal life led to a certain 
depreciation of those values. He saw moral life more in terms 
of gladly accepting all that happened to one than in those of 
trying to acquire the things that accord with human nature. For 
Ghrysippus health, prosperity, a family, things for which a 
human being normally and properly has a preference, were for 
the most part correct objects of choice; only in unusual circum- 
stances might his reason tell him that they should be foregone. 
Epictetus' position was summed up in his slogan anechou km 
apechou, 'bear and forbear' or 'sustain and abstain'. One must 
tolerate, as being for the universal good, all those experiences 
that the world calls misfortunes, and one must not have any 
emotional attachment to the things that one cannot control. "Do 
not admire your wife's beauty and you will not be angry if she 
is unfaithful'; at life's banquet do not want the dish that is not 
yet before you and do not try to detain it as it passes away 
{Discourses I. xviii. 11, Handbook 15). The orthodox Stoic 
would not disagree, but constant insistence gives this negative 



aspect a new emphasis. Not that Epictetus would have admitted 
his ideal to be a negative one: it was a positive determination 
to go freely and willingly along with the divine power that 
ordered all things for the best. This is an aspect not to be for- 
gotten, for if it is overlooked there is a danger of seeing Epictetus 
as a man who renounces the world, confident in his own self- 
sufficiency. In fact he completely accepts the world, sure that 
its goodness is intelligible to its maker. If the individual suffers, 
his suffering serves a purpose for the universe as a whole, that 
great city of which he is a member. His reason, being an off- 
shoot of the universal reason which is God, must approve all 
that Grod does. 'What else can I, a lame old man, do but sing a 
hymn of praise to God? If I were a nightingale, I should do as 
a nightingale; if I were a swan, I should do as a swan. But now 
I am a rational being: I must sing the praise of God. This is my 
work, and I shall not desert this post so long as I am assigned 
it, and I call on you to join in this same song* (Discourses I. 16. 

Epictetus was able to combine the belief that God is the force 
shaping all things and constituting all things, including man, 
with a feeling that he is a person distinct from man. That he 
found no incompatibility in this combination appears in the 
following passage : 

'Why do you refuse to know whence you have come? When 
you eat will you not remember who it is that is eating and 
whom you are feeding? When you go to bed with a woman, 
who is doing that? When you mix in company, when you 
take exercise, when you engage in conversation? Don't you 
know that you are feeding God, exercising God? You carry 
God around with you, miserable creature, and do not know it. 
Do you think I mean some god outside you, a god made of 
silver or gold? No; you carry him within you, and do not 
perceive that you are defiling him with your unclean thoughts 
and filthy actions. In the presence of an image of God you 
would not dare to do any of those things you now do, but in 
the presence of God himself within you, who watches and 
hears all, are you not ashamed to entertain these thoughts 
and do these actions, insensible of your own nature and earn- 
ing the wrath of God ? (Discourses II. 8. 1 1-14). 



Whatever the faults of individuals, however widespread was 
human wickedness, Epictetus insisted that men have a natural 
capacity for goodness; they are so made that they necessarily 
acquire a conception of it and must approve what they con- 
ceive; if their conception is wrong, they will act wrongly and 
should be pitied like the lame and the blind; if their conception 
is put right, they will act rightly and be good men. Secondly, 
nature has bestowed on them two supporting qualities, aidos 
and pistis. AidSs is the sense of shame that makes a man blush 
at certain actions and restrains him from wickedness; it is also 
the feeling of self-respect or respect for the divine element with- 
in him. The recognition of pistis, the other great human quality, 
enlarges the horizon; it corrects the emphasis that falls in most 
of Epictetus' talk on the inner man whom the outer world can- 
not disturb, for pistis is what marks a man's relation to his fellow- 
men. Epictetus gave the word a new and individual sense, very 
like that of the Latin fides, a virtue central in Roman thought. 
His Roman hearers will have regarded it as a translation, and 
for them it will have had an emotive tone. There is no exact 
English equivalent; it covers reliability, loyalty, and helpful- 
ness; it is the basis on which orderly society is built. 

Nature directs all living things to seek what is advantageous 
to them, but man is unique in that his reason tells him that his 
advantage lies in acting appropriately towards othei^. Our first 
duties are to the family: "here is your father; it is laid down 
that you should take care of him, give way to him in everything, 
put up with his abuse, with his blows. "But he is a bad father !" 
Did Nature relate you to a good father only? No, simply to a 
father. "My brother does me wrong!" Then maintain your 
position with regard to him; do not consider what he does, but 
how you must act if your moral purpose is to be what Nature 
demands.' But duties extend beyond the family, to neighbours, 
to fellow-citizens, to all mankind. Men are naturally social 
beings; they love one another and endure one another. To a 
man who was angered by his slaves' carelessness Epictetus spoke 
sternly: 'Will you not endure your brother, who has Zeus as his 
forefather, who is as it were a son bom of the same seed as you 
and begotten like you from above? . . . Do you not remember 
what you are and to whom you give orders? Your kin, your 
brothers in nature, the offspring of Zeus. "But I have bought 



them, they have not bought me !" You see where you are look- 
ing — to the earth, to the pit, to these miserable laws made by 
corpses for corpses; you have no eyes for the divine law' {Dis- 
courses I. 13. 4—5). 

To think of all men as one's brothers is a precept that may re- 
call Christianity, of which Epictetus betrays no knowledge. But 
love of mankind did not suggest primarily to him the doing of 
anything for their physical benefit, and that is only to be ex- 
pected since he so much depreciated the value of all external 
things. His is a love that suffereth all things, but hardly one that 
is warm and outgoing, initiating positive aid and support. In 
the same way the practical advice that he gives on conduct is 
predominantly negative: 

Talk as little as possible; if there is an occasion for talking do 
not talk about sporting events, food and drink, or other 
trivia; above all refrain from blaming, praising, or comparing 
other people; do not laugh much; swear as little as possible; 
avoid dinner-parties; no sex before marriage, but don't boast 
of your chastity or make yourself a nuisance to those who do 
indulge; it is unnecessary to go to the theatre frequently, 
and if you go remain indifferent as to who wins the prize and 
afterwards speak only of the moral profit you have drawn 
from the occasion ... do not talk at length about your own 
deeds and dangers, for others will be less interested than you; 
avoid raising a laugh, for that diminishes other people's res- 
pect for you. Foul language is dangerous; if it occurs and the 
occasion is suitable, reprove the man who has fallen into it; 
if it is unsuitable, show your displeasure by silence, blushing, 
and frowning. {Handbook, c. 33, abbreviated.) 

The final sentence here indicates the way in which the Stoic 
might best help others, namely by influencing their behaviour 
and making them morally better men. This belief, which com- 
bines with his depreciation of all those external things that most 
men desire or fear, led Epictetus to a sympathy for the Cynics, 
or rather for the minority of that numerous body who had 
adopted their way of life for the right reasons. There were 
many who made the name an excuse for living by begging, with 
liberty to abuse the sins of the rich. The true Cynic renounces 



possessions and children in order to be able to devote himself 
without impediment to the work of God, whose messenger he 
is. He gives all his energies to the moral education of his fellow 
men, without any thought of his own advantage. This is not the 
best way oif life imaginable, but it is one that is required of those 
who are called to it by the wickedness of the world; it is right 
for certain individuals here and now, soldiers in the war against 
evil {Discourses IH. 22). 


A reminder that there were still at this time Stoic philosophers 
concerned with theory as well as practice is provided by a papy- 
rus which preserves much of the text of a Groundwork of Ethics 
by Hierocles, who lived in the early second century ad and is 
described by Aulus Gellius as a 'holy and serious man'. He 
seems to have worked with inherited material, and is to be 
seen as a pillar of orthodoxy. The value of his work lies in show- 
ing how Stoic ethics are based on human nature, which is some- 
thing that develops and changes as the human being grows. 

The growth of the embryo, Hierocles begins, is controlled by 
the 'nature' within it, a 'breath' which becomes more tenuous 
as the time of birth approaches, and so is already on its way 
to being converted into psyche. The creature that is bom is 
immediately an animal, with sensation and impulse, and it 
senses itself. He next digresses by recounting, to establish the 
principle that sensation is of self as well as of the outside world, 
a large number of stories of animal behaviour. Some seem to 
show that the animal is aware of its own strengths and weak- 
nesses; others that it is aware of what is dangerous to it, e.g. 
chickens are not frightened of bulls but of weasels and hawks; 
this too implies awareness of self, as does the fact that all other 
animals avoid man, perceiving his superiority in reason, i.e. they 
compare him with themselves. This self-sensation is continuous, 
being due to the 'tensional' movement of the psyche (cf. p. 77) ; 
the outward movement presses against all parts of the body, the 
inward movement towards the controlling centre causes appre- 
hension not only of all parts of the body but also of the appre- 
hending psyche itself. (Even in sleep self-sensation is shown by 
the way in which we pull the bedclothes over exjjosed parts and 
avoid knocking sore places; a drunkard will clutch his bottle, a 



miser his money-bags.) Perception always implies self-aware- 
ness; as we perceive something white we also perceive that we 
are being affected by a white object. All powers that have a 
controlling function exercise it on themselves; the nature (i.e. 
breath) that holds a plant together begins by keeping itself to- 
gether; sensation begins by perceiving itself. The animal, sen- 
sing itself, must be pleased, displeased, or indifferent towards 
the presentation which it has of itself. The two latter alterna- 
tives are absurd, as they would lead to its death. Therefore it is 
pleased; it is made to feel affinity to itself and its constitution 
(cf. p. 32). Hence animals do all they can to preserve themselves. 
Infants do not like being shut up in dark silent rooms; the 
absence of any objects of sensation makes them feel that they 
are being destroyed. So nurses induce them to shut their eyes, 
because they are less frightened if they cut off their vision volun- 
tarily. (The point is that one's own action is something one feels 
to belong to one, whereas enforced lack of vision is alien to one's 
nature. From the time of Antipater at the least Stoics show an 
interest in child psychology, seeing how the child develops into 
the man and regarding him as an important agent in that de- 
velopment. The tendency of earlier thinkers was to look on him 
as passive or recalcitrant material for education.) Another sign 
of the animal's feeling of eiffinity for itself is the way in which 
we put up with physical unpleasantness in ourselves that we 
should find horrid in others. 

After this the papyrus becomes very scrappy. The next sub- 
ject seems to be how with experience the psyche's perception 
becomes clearer. This may have led on to an argxmient that as 
external things are more clearly perceived and at the same time 
one's own nature is more clearly understood, it is realised that 
there is an affinity between oneself and some of these external 
things. Certainly there follows a passage which distinguishes 
between three kinds of feeling of affinity, that directed towards 
oneself, that towards one's relatives, and that towards external 

An extrapolation of the argument suggests that Hierocles 
continued by saying that there were further extensions of this 
feeUng of affinity, to include on the one hand all fellow-men 
and on the other knowledge and all rational, good, and noble 
conduct. To learn and to be guided by reason are the proper 



activities of man, whose nature causes him to feel that these 
things belong to him and are his. Thus morality is to be built 
on an ever-deepening recognition of what one is, which follows 
naturally and automatically from widening experience. 

Marcus Aurelius 

Marcus Aurelius, nephew of the emperor Antoninus' wife, was 
adopted by him when not yet seventeen. He had masters in rhe- 
toric and in philosophy, but at about the age of twenty-five 
abandoned the former subject. Marked out as he was to be 
Antoninus' successor, he was much occupied by public duties 
and had not time for a deep study even of the Stoicism which 
he embraced. But that philosophy encouraged him in a natural 
tendency to rule justly and humanely, for it told him that men 
should help, not harm, one another. At the same time one should 
not be angry, but bear with transgressors. He wjis lenient with 
those guilty of conspiracy against him. In the conduct of trials 
he was meticulous, even in unimportant cases. Hating blood- 
shed, he caused gladiators to be given blunted weapons. The 
local persecutions of Christians during his reign were probably 
not authorised by him. But although his practical goodness 
was gratefully recognised by the men of his day, his present 
reputation rests on the twelve books ctf Meditations, composed 
probably in the last decade of his life, during which time he was 
constantly with his amdes, fighting off the barbarians along the 
Danube frontier. Yet they contain almost no reference to these 
or any other current problems;" they are reflections written to 
support himself in a world that has become dreary and menac- 

The letters that he had written as a young man to Fronto, his 

Un AD 176, some three years before he died, Marcus made his 
own son Commodus joint emperor. Previously marked out for the 
succession, Commodus was then a youth of fifteen. He proved to 
be a second Nero and his twelve years of rule were disastrous. Did a 
father's partiality blind the philosopher to his son's defects? Five 
successive emperors had been chosen, not born to the purple, and 
all deserved well of the state; why did Marcus not continue this 
practice? Perhaps he feared that a son, if not chosen to succeed, 
might be a focus for disaffection; none of his four predecessors had 
had a son to be considered. 



tutor in rhetoric and literature, reveal interest and joy in the 
world around him; he goes hunting, boasts of climbing a steep 
hill, visits the antiquities of Anagnia: 'then we worked at 
gathering the grapes, sweated hard, and were merry . . . then I 
had a good pratde with my darling mother as she sat on my bed 
... the gong sounded, announcing that my father had gone to 
the bath-house : so we had dinner after bathing in the oil-press 
room (I mean dinner after bathing, not bathing in the oil-press 
room !) and enjoyed listening to the yokels as they ragged one 
another.' (Fronto, To Marcus Caesar 4.4,5,6). Now in the Medi- 
tations he has become filled with disgust: 'how short-lived and 
cheap are the objects of our experience, things that can be 
possessed by a sodomite, a whore, or a brigand. Think next of 
the characters of those with whom you live; even the best of 
them can hardly be borne with, not to say that a man can 
hardly endure himself.' 'What do you see when you take a 
bath? Oil, sweat, dirt, greasy water, all nauseating. Every part 
of life is like that.' (V. 10.4, VIII. 24, cf. Seneca Letter 107.2.) 
Yet he held firm to the belief that everything in the world 
is the work of a divine Reason, which man must gladly accept 
and co-operate with; this is the motive for remaining in it: "why 
should I live in a world where there are no gods and no Provi- 
dence?' (II. 11.3.) Yet elsewhere he says that if the world is 
mere undirected confusion, you should be glad that amidst 
its breakers you possess within yourself a commanding mind. 
This independent self cannot be forced to think otherwise than 
it wishes. 'If you are hurt by anything outside yourself, it is 
not that which troubles you, but your judgment about it, and 
that is something you can immediately erase.' The man who 
concentrates on the goodness of his own commanding element 
is 'a priest and servant of the gods, using that element seated 
within him that makes of mere man a being undefiled by 
pleasures, unwounded by any pain, untouched by any assault, 
unconscious of any wickedness, a contestant in the g^reatest of 
contests, not to be overthrown by any passion, with a deep dye 
of justice, welcoming with all his heart everything that happens 
and everything that is assigned to him, and seldom imagining 
what another man is saying or doing or thinking, and then 
only if there is some great necessity for so doing to pro- 
mote the public good.' (III. 4.3.) The element within, which is 



reason, is a god, as being part of the divine reason that rules 
the world. We should 'keep the god within us safe from viola- 
tion or harm, stronger than pleasures and pains, doing nothing 
without purpose or by mistake or in pretence, having no need 
that anyone else should do something or not do something, 
and accepting what happens and what is assigned to us as 
coming from the same source as that from which it has itself 
come' (II. 17). This discovery of the god within is common to 
the Roman Stoics j we have met it in Epictetus (p. 167) and 
it is to be found in Seneca, who wrote 'God is near you, he is 
with you, he is within you ... he treats us as we treat him' 
{Letters 41.3). None of them attempts to meet the obvious 
psychological difficulty of a self that is one and yet divided. 
But this is a puzzle presented in many forms; self-knowledge, 
self-examination and self-love are all familiar; perhaps self- 
acceptance and self-aversion are experiences of the same 

Whereas orthodox Stoicism had regarded the psyche as essen- 
tially a unity in which the 'command-post' was responsible for 
all conscious activities except mere sensation, Marcus tends to 
identify the 'command-post' with reason. Then, instead of 
dividing man into body and soul, he makes a tripartite divi- 
sion into body, breath, and intelligence, using derogatory 
diminutives for the first two. This division, whatever its origins 
may be, is nowhere clearly explained. Breath is the breath of 
life, which he identifies with the air inhaled and exhaled; but 
it is also responsible for sensation. Intelligence is contrasted 
with breath and spoken of with respect, but it would be wrong 
to suppose that he abandoned the view that reason may be cor- 
rupted and turn to error and passion. Yet even corrupted reason 
can recognise its own corruption, and this may be expressed by 
saying that there is always a daimon within us, a fragment of 
Zeus, the universal law. 

The Meditations contain matter of various nature, short 
extracts from previous authors, summaries of Stoic doctrine, 
personal reflexions, self-criticism and self-exhortation. Some 
books have a predominant theme or character, but none is an 
organised unity except the first, which sets down the moral 
lessons that Marcus had learned from the teaching or the be- 
haviour of his instructors and his relations, and concludes with 



thanks to the gods for giving him such teachers, such a family, 
and the capacity to profit by their lessons. His catalogue of 
blessings ends as follows: 

To have had a frequent clear impression of what life in 
accord with nature is, with the result that, so far as the gods 
are concerned and it is a matter of communication, of aid, 
and of inspiration from heaven, there is no obstacle to my 
living in accord with nature here and now; that I still fall 
short of this is due to my own fault and to not observing the 
reminders, I could almost say the instruction, that comes from 
the gods. That my body has held out so long in the life I 
lead. That I did not touch Benedicta or Theodotus [prob- 
ably slaves], and subsequently again was cured when I fell 
into the passion of love. That although I was often angry 
with Rusticus I did nothing that I should have repented. 
That my mother, who was to die young, spent her last years 
with me. That whenever I wished to help someone who was 
in poverty or some other difficulty, I was never told that I 
had not the money to do it, and that it never happened that 
I was myself in need of another's help. That my wife is 
what she is, so obedient, so loving, and so simple.^ That I 
had a good supply of suitable persons to bring up my 
children. That I was granted assistance in dreams, especially 
against the spitting of blood and dizziness. The answer given 
me in Caieta: 'what you make of it'. That my love for philo- 
sophy did not cause me to fall into the hands of any sophist, 
or sit down in a comer to analyse syllogisms or become in- 
volved in meteorology. 

All these things require the help of G!od and fortune. 

Some of Marcus' thoughts might have been expressed by 
any reflective man, for example : 

Do not suppose that because something is hard for you your- 
self to accomplish it is beyond human capacity; but if 

^Faustina, who bore him thirteen children and died while 
accompanying him on a journey in the East. Stories of her infidelity 
and of complicity in the conspiracy of Cassius are probably mal- 
icious calumnies. 



anything is possible and appropriate for man, think that 
it is in your reach also. (VI. 19.) 


I have often wondered how it is that everyone loves himself 
more than aU other men, but thinks less of his own estimation 
of himself than he does of that of all others. At any rate, 
if a god or a wise teacher should stand over a man and tell 
him to think nothing and contemplate nothing within him- 
self that he will not at the same time speak out to the world, 
he would not endure that for even a single day. So much do 
we have more respect for what our neighbours will think of 
us than for ourselves. (XII. 4.) 

Yet more frequency the full meaning can only be grasped if 
one remembers the Stoic interpretation of the world, and per- 
haps the majority of the entries are explicitly Stoic in concepts 
and vocabulary or in their sentiments. A few basic themes 
recur; Marcus is so convinced of their rightness that they are 
always fresh and living for him; they are expressed in a hundred 
different ways. For him the key to life lay in three principles. 
First, not to admire any of the common objects of ambition, 
the things which the world thinks valuable. All are as insigni- 
ficant as man's life, which is but a point in eternity. Second, 
to accept all that happens, as being part of the divine plan; 
even the man who repines or resists belongs in fact to that plan. 
Lastly, to play one's part as a himian being in the community: 
as a Roman and an emperor he had hb civic duties to fulfil, 
as a man he had to love his fellow-men, bear with them, for- 
give them their faults, teach them, and protect them. 

Marcus may not have intended his Meditations for any eye 
but his own. How they were preserved is not known, and the 
first certain surviving reference to them is in a letter of the 
learned Arethas written about ad 900. The obscurity which 
involved them becomes less surprising when one reflects that 
Marcus was almost the last of the Stoics. A few names are 
known from the third century, but they are hardly more than 
names. Even in Marcus' day the shine of half a century's 
peace and prosperity had departed; plague and barbarian 



pressure were taking their toll. After him came a century horrid 
with civil war and barbarian irruption. Stoicism was replaced 
by philosophies and religions which offered men the consolation 
of a future life in a better place than this vale of tears. 

Among those rivals was Christianity. It had a further advan- 
tage as being a religion that offered hope to all, whereas Stoic 
philosophy was addressed to an elite, promising success only 
to that minority of men who could perfect their reason by their 
own continued efforts. The Christian was saved by the grace 
of God and a single act of faith. No sinner was too wicked to 
repent, no man or woman too simple to believe. Thereafter 
the Christian might find he must struggle to maintain the stan- 
dards of conduct expected of him, just as the Stoic struggled 
to attain the standards he set himself. But the Christian had 
done what was necessary for salvation and needed only not 
to throw away his prize of eternal happiness; and he could 
confidently call for help on a God in whom he had put his 
trust. The Stoic, relying on himself, could hope neither for 
complete escape from the pit of wickedness now nor for any 
reward in a hereafter. 

The Christians were well aware of the differences that sep- 
arated them from the Stoics; above all they criticised the 
materialism of their psychology and theology and the absence 
of a transcendent Creator.^ But when they came to build a 
philosophy of their own, they had no alternative but to take 
material where it lay to hand in the thought of the pagans, and 
they found as much that was suitable among the Stoics as 
among the Platonists.^ Often, it must be admitted, they modi- 
fied the meaning of the vocabulary they took over. Thus for 

'Generalisations about early Christians must not be understood 
as being universally true. In a time of active thought not everyone 
keeps in step. So Tertullian, to take an example, remained a 
materialist, accepting the Stoic arguments: 'everything that exists 
is a body of individual quality: only the non-existent is unbodily' 
{On the Flesh of Christ 11). 

*The Platonists, although never numerous in the period between 
Marcus Aurelius and Justinian, were tenacious. They had the 
advantage of a philosophy which found reality outside the material 
world and which could address itself to intellectual problems, a 
capacity not evident among the later Stoics. 



Clement of Alexandria assent is stiU the first step on the road 
to knowledge, but it has become an act of will as much as of 
judgment, and the knowledge to which it can lead depends 
upon revelation. This is fundamental to his thinking. Philo- 
sophy is a preparatory study in which an approach can be made 
to truth, but in the end truth is only to be had by the direct 
grasp of what God has revealed. 

But much could be assimilated without change. In the first 
place they accepted the view that the world is the work of 
God, to be seen as a harmonious unity, determined by his 
Providence, and designed for the benefit of man. Some of this 
came also from Jewish sources and from Platonism, but the 
whole is Stoic, and the arguments for it were drawn mainly 
from Stoic writing, including those that defended the provi- 
dential nature of the physical world. Theodicy, or the justifi- 
cation of God, has also to explain the existence of moral evil, 
and here too the Stoics provided material. Secondly, they con- 
curred in the doctrine that the passions were evil and to be 
rooted out (but remorse and pity were not to be reckoned 
among them) and much of the advice on how to overcome them 
was taken over. Much else in Stoic moralising, of a kind to 
agree with experience, was welcome, and so the path was easy 
for converts, like Clement's teacher Pantaenus. Although 
Stoicism became extinct, the more vital part of its teaching 
lived on, absorbed and modified in the new religion. 


Select Bibliography 
I - Sources 

A. Complete works 

The principal works of Cicero {On the Nature of the Gods, On 
Divination, On Fate, Academica, Talks at Tusculum, On 
Duties, De Finibus or On Goals in Life) are satisfactorily trans- 
lated in the Loeb series, as are those of Seneca and Epictetus. 
Diogenes Laertius Book 7 and Sextus Empiricus, Against the 
Dogmatists Books 7-1 1 and Outlines of Pyrrhonism Book 3, are 
less reliably treated. Volume xiii of the Loeb edition of 
Plutarch's Moralia, to contain On Stoic Self -Contradictions 
and On Common Conceptions is not yet published. 

Among translations of Epictetus those by G. Long (London, 
Bell, 1877, often reprinted) and P. E. Matheson (Oxford, 1916) 
can also be recommended. The most reliable translation of 
Marcus Aurelius is by A. S. L. Farquharson (Oxford, 1944), 
with commentary. 

B. Collections of Fragments 

J. ab Arnim (=Hans von Arnim), Stoicorum Veterum Frag- 
menta, 3 vols (Leipzig, Teubner, 1902-5), index volume by M. 
Adler (ibid., 1925), collects, though not completely, fragments 
of and references to Stoics down to Antipater, adding many 
passages to illustrate 'general Stoic doctrine'. TTie basic collec- 
tion of texts. A. C. Pearson, The Fragments of Zeno and 
Cleanthes (London, Clay, 1891) has valuable introduction and 

M. van Straaten, Panetius, sa vie, ses ecrits, et sa doctrine avec 
une edition de ses fragments (Amsterdam, H. J. Paris, 1946) 
and Panaetii Rhodii fragmenta (Leiden, Brill, 1952; ed. 2, 
1962). L. Edelstein and I. G. Kidd, Posidonius, vol. i. The 
Fragments (Cambridge, University Press, 1972) confined to 
passages which mention Posidonius by name. Vol. ii, a com- 
mentary, is expected (1989?). 


II - Modern works 

A. General 

M. Pohlenz, Die Stoa, 2 vols (Gottingen, Vandenhoeck & 
Ruprecht, 1948), is of outstanding importance. In English there 
is nothing similar. R. D. Hicks, Stoic and Epicurean (London, 
Longmans Green, 1911), treats some central themes well. E. V. 
Arnold, Roman Stoicism (Cambridge, University Press, 1911, 
reprinted 1958) is in spite of its title a general history of Stoi- 
cism; useful because it quotes texts freely, but unreliable and 
often misleading. E. Zeller (trans. O. J. Reichel), The Stoics, 
Epicureans and Sceptics (London, Longmans Green, 1892), 
out of date but still important. E. Bevan, Stoics and Sceptics 
(Oxford, 1913) is brief and stimulating. 

A wide range of problems are treated by a niunber of scholars 
in A. A. Long, Problems in Stoicism (London, Athlone Press, 
1971) and by J. M. Rist, Stoic Philosophy (Cambridge, Uni- 
versity Press, 1969). 

B. Logic 

B. Mates, Stoic Logic (Berkeley and Los Angeles, University 
of California Press, 1953), sets out what is known, emphasises 
its originality, and translates many texts. W. and M. Kneale, 
The Development of Logic (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1964) 
give an appreciative account and try to carry further some 
of the inquiries begun by the Stoics. 

C. Natural Science 

S. Sambursky, Physics of the Stoics (London, Routledge and 
Kegan Paul, 1959) translates the more important texts; con- 
centrates on what may be seen as anticipations of, or analogues 
with modem scientific concepts. 

D. Posidonius 

Posidonius has not greatly attracted English scholars, who have 
welcomed the scepticism of J. F. Dobson, The Posidonius 
Myth, Classical Quarterly 12 (1918) 179 ff. Some aspects are 
well treated by A. D. Nock, Journal of Roman Studies 49 
(1959) 1 S. See also R. M. Jones, Classical Philology 21 (1926) 
97-113 and 27 (1932) 113-35. 



E. Seneca 

The best attempt to give an integrated picture of the man, his 
life, and his writings is by C. J. Herington, Arion 5 (1966), 
422-71, reprinted in Essays on Classical Literature selected 
from Arion by N. Rudd (Cambridge, Heffer, and New York, 
Barnes and Noble, 1972). See also H. MacL. Gurrie, 'Seneca as 
Philosopher* in Neronians and Flavians, Silver Latin I. ed. 
D. R. Dudley (London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1972) pp. 

G. W. Mendell, Our Seneca. (New Haven, Yale University 
Press, 1941) is an account of Seneca as a dramatist. 

F. Efrictetus 

See the excellent book of P. E. More, Hellenistic Philosophies 
(Princeton, 1923) pp. 94-171. 

G. Continuing Influence 

There is much information in R. M. Wenley, Stoicism and 
its Influence (Boston, Marshall Jones, 1924; London, Harrap, 
1925) in the series XDur Debt to Greece and Rome'. 

H. Miscellaneous 

H. C. Baldry, Zeno's Ideal State, Journal Of Hellenic Studies 


, The Unity of Mankind in Greek Thought 

(Cambridge, 1965). 

G. O. Brink, Theophrastus and Zeno on Nature and Moral 
Theory, Phronesis i (1955) 123-45. 

P. De Lacy, 'The Stoic Categories as Methodological Prin- 
ciples, Transactions of the American Philological Association 
76 (1945) 246-63. 

D. R. Dudley, A History of Cynicism (London, Methuen, 

L. Edelstein, The Meaning of Stoicism (Cambridge Mass., 
Harvard University Press, 1966). 

J. B. Gould, The Philosophy of Chrysippus (Leiden, Brill, 

H. A. K. Hunt, Some Problems in the interpretation of Stoi- 
cism, Journal of the Australasian Universities Language and 



Literature Association 28 (1967) 165-77 (on determinism and 
free will). 

G. B. Kerferd, The Search for Personal Identity in Stoic 
Thought, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 55 (1972) 

, Cicero and Stoic Ethics (in Cicero and Virgil, 

Studies in Honour of Harold Hunt, pp. 60-74). 

M. Lapidge, Phronesis 18 (1973) 240-78 (on the elements). 

A. A. Long, Cameades and the Stoic Telos, Phronesis 12 
(1967) 59-90. 

, Hellenistic Philosophy (London, Duckworth, 

1974), supplies an up-to-date and scholarly account. 

, The Stoic Concept of Evil, Philosophical 

Quarterly 18 (1968) 329-43. 

, Aristotie's Legacy to Stoic Ethics, Bulletin of 

the Institute of Classical Studies, 15 (1968) 72-85. 

C. E. Maiming, Seneca and the Stoics on the Equality of the 
Sexes, Mnemosyne 26 (series iv) (1973) 170-7. 

G. Miuray, The Stoic Philosophy, in Essays and Addresses 
(London, Allen and Unwin, 1921). 

M. E. Reesor, The Stoic Concept of Quality, American 
Journal of Philology 75 (1954) 40-58. 

, The Stoic Categories, ibid. 78 (1957) 63-82. 

, Fate and Possibility in Early Stoic Philosophy, 

Phoenix 19 (1965) 285-97. 

F. Solmsen, Cleanthes or Posidonius? The Basis of Stoic 
Physics (Amsterdam, 1961), 

G. R. Stanton, The cosmopolitan Ideas of Epictetus and 
Marcus Aurelius, Phronesis 13 (1968) 183-95. 

R. B. Todd, The Stoic Common Notions, Symbolae Osloenses 
48 (1973) 47-75. 

J. M. C. Toynbee, Dictators and Philosophers in the First 
Century AD, Greece and Rome 13 (1944)43-58. 

G. Watson, The Stoic Theory of knowledge (Belfast 1966). 

C. Wirszubski, Libertas as a Political Ideal at Rome during 
the late Republic and Early Principate, pp. 138-53 (Cambridge, 



For the benefit of readers who may refer to Greek or Latin 
texts there are here set out a number of technical terms or 
words used by Stoics in a peculiar restricted sense together 
with the equivalents adopted by authors who wrote in Latin. 


honestas, uirtus 


agathon, spoudaion 





beautiful, fine 



to be sought for 

chresimon, dphelimon. 


usefijl, beneficial 


kakon, phaulon 





ugly, shameful 



to be shunned 






badness, vice 




a. morally 

b. absolutely 


productum, promotum, 

having precedence 



to be chosen. 







reiectum, remotum 




not to be chosen 




axiin echon 


having worth or 

apaxian echon 


having unworth 



appropriate action 


recte factum 

correct action 


praue factum 

incorrect action 



p. 30, note: W. TheileT,Poseidoitios, Die Fragnenta (1983), prints 
like F. Jacoby, Die Fraginente der griechischen Historiker (1926), 
a number of passages guessed to be dependent on Posidonius. 
No doubt they are often right, but caution is needed. 

p. 152, line 8: This brother was still called Novatus; he took the 
name Gallio on being adopted into another family. 

p. 179, Select Bibliography: These additions to the original 
bibliography are, like it, almost entirely confined to works in 

Volume xiii Part 2 of the Loeb edition of Plutarch's Moralia 
contains On Stoic Self-Contradictions and On Common 
Preconceptions with a long introduction and extensive 
commentary by H. Cherniss. 

A.A. Long and D.N. Sedley, Tlie Hellenistic Philosophers 
(Cambridge, 1987-8) contains in vol. i an English translation of, 
and a commentary on, a wide range of passages from ancient 
authors concerning Stoicism (pp. 155-437). The original Greek 
and Latin texts are to be found in vol. ii. They include much that 
was omitted by von Arnim's collection. 

J.M. Rist, Tlte Stoics (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1978), 
assembles chapters by various scholars. 

A.A. Long, Hellenistic Philosophy (London, 1974) expounds 
(pp. 107-222) the philosophical aspect of Stoicism. 

The papers collected by M. Schofield, M.F. Burnyeat, and J. 
Barnes, Doubt and Doffnatism (Oxford, 1980) contain much 
about Stoicism. 

D.E. Hahm, Tlie Origins of Stoic Cosmology (Ohio, 1977) is 
important, but exaggerates the influence of Aristotle. 



In transliterated words a final letter e is always to be pronoun- 
ced as a long vowel. Thus arete is a word of three syllables, 
psychs one of two. Other instances of long e have been marked 
with a circumflex, as have those of long a and long o. 

Academy, 13, 14, 15, 41, 58, 75, 

acceptance of events, 35-7, 

165-7, 173, 176 
Aeschylus, Agamemnon 

(1485-8), 104 
Aetius, 18, 86, 132 
affinity, 32, 34, 170-2 
Agrippina, 151 
aiMs, 168 

Alexander of Aphrodisias, 103 
Andronicus, 67 
anger, 61, 65, 152, 153 
animals, 32-3, 58, 60, 64, 66, 80, 

Antigonus Gonatas, 23, 140 
Antiochus of Ascalon, 35, 38, 40, 

46, 85, 120-2 
Antipater of Tarsus, 36, 55-7, 

Antipater of Tyre, 142 
Antisthenes, 13, 21 
Antoninus Pius, 147, 172 
apatheia (freedom from passion), 

63, 147 
Apollodorus of Athens, 119 
Apollonides of Smyrna, 142 
A[>ollonius of Nicomedia (or 

Chalcedon), 147 
appropriate actions {kathikonta) 

45-8, 123-8 
AratusofSoli, 120 
Arcesilaus, 47, 88, 91, 1 12 
Archedemus of Tarsus, 55, 62, 


archers, 57, 127 

arete (virtue), 28, 29 

Arethas, 176 

Aristarclius, astronomer, 1 12 

Aristides, the 'Just', 45 

Aristo of Chios, 37, 38-9, 42, 94, 

Aristocles, 74, 75 
Aristotle, 11, 13, 15, 21-2, 35, 

53, 63, 69, 70, 74, 81, 83, 90, 


130-1, 140 
AriusDidymus, 18, 35, 53, 143 
Arrian, 164 
assent, 88, 121 
astrology, 80, 123 
astronomy, 112, 134, 158 
Athenio, 133 
Athenodorus of Soli, 109 
Athenodorus of Tarsus, 

(Knobby), 142 
Athenodorus of Tarsus 

(Baldhead), 143, (?) 154 
Attains, 150, 162 
Augustus, 18, 143 

Barea Soranus, 144, 162 
'be', meamng of, 91-2 
blending, total (krdsis di'holSn), 

Blossius of Cumae, 141 
Boadicea (Boudicca), 162 
Boethus of Sidon, 79, 120, 123 
bravery,42, 125, 127 



Broad, CD., 11 

Burrus, Sex. Afranius, 151 

Caligula, 150 

Gallippus of Corinth, 109 

Carneades, 15, 56-7, 91, 116-17, 

Cassius, Avidius, 52, 175 

casuistry, 128, 157 

'categories', 93-4 

Cato, M. Porcius, 142-3 

causation, 81-2, 102, 131 

children, 25-6, 60, 64, 66, 135-6 
163, 171 

Christians, 169, 172, 177 

ChrysippusofSoli, 14, 15, 
17, 18, 19,24, 112-15; ethics, 
64-7, 94, 136, 166; God, 36, 
70, 73, 101-8; logic, 95, 97-9; 
natural science, 75, 78, 130; 
perception, 86, 89, 92, 121 ; 
psychology, 80, 81, 83, 84, 85; 
pubUclife, 118, 140-1; 
quoted, 36, 46, 70, 98, 1 13, 
114; unconventional views, 
25, 114; On Appropriate 
Action, 114; Goals of Life, 33 ; 
On Nature, \Q\; On the 
Passions, 113; On Providence, 105 

Cicero, M. Tullius, 16, 18, 34, 
Academica Postertora, 85 ; 
AcademicaPriora, 87, 122; 
GoalsofLife (DeFinibus), 19, 33, 
39, 49, 55, 68, 90; On Divination 
81, 98, 123; On Duties, 19, 58, 
59, 123, 127, 143; OnFate, 19; 
On Friendship, 123; On Laws, 
123 ; 0« the Nature of the Gods, 
19,73,76, 106, 123, 130; On 
the Republic, 123; Talks at 
Tusculum, 62, 63, 65, 67, 123, 

Citium, 20 

city-states, 23, 25 

Claudius, emperor, 150 

Cleanthes of Assos, 14, 18, 36, 37, 



74, 76, 78, 83, 84, 86, 95, 105, 

109-10, 115, 140-1; Hjmn to 

^m, 101, 110-12 
clemency, 153 
Clement of Alexandria, 178 
Cleomedes, 130 
Cleomenes, 140 
Coeranus, 144 
cognition, 87, 88-9, 120-1 
comets, 158 
Gommodus, 172 
conduct, detailed advice on, 39, 

conflagration, of world, 78-9, 

conscience, 160 
consistency in life, 53, 59 ; with 

nature, 53-8 
continua, 71, 76, 92 
Coriscus 110 
correct actions {katorthSmata), 46, 

Comutus, L. Annaeus, 115 
Crates, the Cynic, 20, 39 
Crates of Mallos, 99 
Gritolaus, 116 
Cynics, 13, 20, 21, 23, 39, 41, 44, 

146, 169 

daimon, 136, 174 
Damophilus, 133 
Dardanus of Athens, 119 
death, 36, 50-1, 146, 157 
Demetrius, the Cynic, 107, 146 
Democritus, 1 1 
dialectic, 95 
Dio Cassius, 52, 162 
Diodorus Cronus, 22 
Diodorus Siculus, 130, 131, 132 
Diodotus, 142 
Diogenes of Babylon, 55-6, 79, 

Diogenes, the Cynic, 13, 20, 42 
Diogenes Laertius, 18, 32, 48, 

Dionysius of Heradea, 109 


disease, metaphorical, 63, 136, 

divine signs, 49, 81 
dreams, 81, 175 
Druids, 131 

earth, circumference of, 134; 
zones of, 134 

Egnatius Celer, 162 

elements, 71-2 

emotions, 60 j correct, 67-8 

Epaphroditus, 164 

Epictetus, 17, 52, 114, 139, 149, 
162, 164-70; Discourses, 51, 55, 
90, 146, 147, 166, 167, 168, 
170; Handbook, 164, 165, 166, 

Epicureanism, 16, 62 

Epicureans, 16,22, 119 

Epicurus, 14, 82, 103, 154, 157 

Eprius Marcellus, 145 

Erastus, 1 10 

Eratosthenes, 134, 138 

ethics, 28-68; Greek view of, 1 1 

'etymology', 115 

eudaimonia, 29, 40-1 ; see also 

Euphrates of Tyre, 147 

Euripides, Medea, 113 

evil (bad), 101, 105, 111; things 

falsely so called, 28, 61, 156 

Fate, 79^2, 101-8, 161 ; see also 

God and Providence 
faulty action, 47 
Faustina, 175 
fear, 61 
fees 109 
fire,' 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78-9, 

Fortune, 154, 156, 161 
Fontaine, J. de la, 59 
Frederick the Great, 164 
freewill, 102-4, 165 
Fimdanus, C. Minucius, 162 

Galba, 162 

Galen, 17, 18, 43, 54, 64, 66, 

Gallio, L.Junius, 152 

Gaul, 131 

GeUius, Aulus, 159 

goal of life, 52-9 

God, 35, 36, 37, 51, 69-71, 72-4, 


120, 132, 156, 158, 170, 175; 

in man, 139, 167, 175; see also 

Fate, Providence, Zeus 
good, no degrees of, 28, 44 
Gracchus, Tib. Sempronius, 141 
granmiar, 99-100, 1 15 

Hadrian, 147 

happiness, 40, 127-8, 155 

Hecato of Rhodes, 112, 118, 157 

higemonikon, 83-4, 174 

Helvia, 150 

Helvidius Priscus, 145-6 

Heraclitus, 50, 75, 77, 84 

Herillus of Carthage, 109 

hexis, 130 

Hierocles, 34, 149, 170-2 

impulse (horme), 60-1, 64^-5, 113 
impulses, primary, 32-3, 123-6 
inaction, argument about, 104 
indifferent diings (adiapkora), 29, 

intellectualism, 41, 60, 65-6, 160 
inventions, 137 
irrational elements in psyche, 

64-5, 135-6, 158 

Junius Rusticus, see Rusticus 
justice, 42, 105,124,127 

kataUpsis, see cognition 
kathikonta, 45-8 
katorthSmata, 46 
knowledge, 29, 87, 90, 109 

Lactantius, 67 

law, 16,25, 111, 153, 169 

Livia, 143 


logos, 64, 72-3, 74, 83, 95; see 

also reason 
Long, A. A., 89 



love,60, 116, 126 
Lucan, 16 
Luck, G., 121 
Lucilius, 156 
Lucius, 163 
lust (epiihymid), 61 
Lyceum, 23, 112 

Manilius, 16 

Marcus Aurelius, 17, 39, 51, 60, 

marriage, 26, 117-18, 163 
materialism, 74, 82, 92, 1 12 
matter, 72-5, 76 
meaning (Jekton), 96-7, 99 
Megarians, 13,22,99 
Messalina, 150 
meteorology, 138, 158, 175 
mind, seat of, 83 
Mnesarchus of Athens, 119 
moral concepts, 90 
music, 116 
Musonius, C, 17, 144, 149, 


naturallife, 21, 31-8, 40 
nature, 3 1 ; life in accord with, 

53-9; man's, 33, 40, 54, 90, 

121; universal, 40, 54 
Nemesius, 130 
Nero, 144, 151, 153, 157, 162 
NicopoUs, 164 
Nilus, Saint, 164 

Odeum, 112 

oikeiSsis, 32, 34-5, 121 ; see also 

oratory,95, 115, 119 

pain, mental, 61, 64 

Panaetius, 15, 16, 18, 19, 58, 59, 

62, 79, 83, 109, 117, 118-19, 

123-6, 142 
Pantaenus, 178 
Papirius Fabianiis, 150 
paradoxes, 43, 45, 48 
Pascal, B., 164 

passions, 59-67, 122, 135-6, 159 
Pembroke, S. G., 32 
perception, 85-91 


Pergamum, 141, 142 
Peripatetics, 22, 35, 63, 73, 97-9, 

PersaeusofCitium,20, 109, 140 
Persius, A., 16, 1 15 
Phalaris, 45 

phantasia, see presentations 
phantasia katdiptike, 85, 87-9, 

Pherecydes, 50 
Philo, the Jew, 77 
PhiloofLarisa, 119, 120 
PhUodemus, 24, 115-16 
Philonides of Thebes, 109, 140 
'philosopher*, meaning of, 1 1, 

philosophers at Athens, 14, 118- 
19, 121 ; wear beards, 14(5, 
147; exiled, 146, 150, 162, 164; 
at Rome, 17, 116-17, 144, 147, 
phron^sis, 42 
'physics', meaning of, 69; and 

morality, 158 
physis (nature), 3 1-2 ; as qualifier 
of plants, etc., 84, 128, 130, 170 
pigs, 80 

pistis (fides), 168 
pity,61, 153, 159 
Plato, 13, 15, 35, 42, 53, 82, 83, 
115, 116, 135;rj»mj««,74, 
75 ; Phaedo, 143 ; Sophist, 91 
Platonists, 73, 74, 90, 177 
pleasure, 62, 63, 110, 155, 163 
Plotinus,93, 139 
Plutarch, 16, 18, 25, 43, 49, 50, 

pneuma ('breath'), 71, 73, 75, 77, 
85, 93^; in man, 42-3, 83-4, 
170, 174 
poets, interpretation of, 26 
politics, 140-8; see also public life 
Polybius, historian, 90, 132 
Polybius, fireedman, 150 
Pompey, 142 

Posidonius of Apamea, 15, 16, 18, 
127, 129-39, 157, 158 


Fosidonius of Alexandria, 109 
precedence, things with, 29, 31, 

46 ; denied by Aristo, 38-9 
'preconceptions' {proUpseis), 89- 

Pr6chac, F., 152 
presentations, 85-91, 165; 

cognitive, 85, 87-9, 120-1 
Priscianus Lydns, 132 
primary natural things, 39, 56-8, 

trolgmena, H;see also precedence 
progress, moral, 48 
prohairesis, (choice of principle), 

prokoptSn, see progress 
prolipseis, see preconceptions 
propatheiai (preliminaries to 

passion), 159 
prophecy, 44, 80-1, 123 
propositions, 96-7 
propriety (fitprepon), 125-6 
Providence, 70, 79-80, 105-8, 

147, 156, 161 
psyche, 42, 60-7, 80, 82-5, 86, 88, 


170-1 ; formation of, 84; 

irrational elements in, 64-5, 

135-6, 158; survival, 82-3, 

138, 157 
public life, 117, 118, 140-1, 147, 

154, 176 
punishment, 104, 107 
Pythagoreans, 79 

qualities, 92-4 
Quinquennium Neronis, 162 
Quintilian, 159 

reason, 33, 35, 36, 40, 47, 48, 52, 
54, 58, 75, 83, 89, 106, 123, 
153, 173, 174; human and 
divine,37,70,80, 136, 138, 
1 73 ; perverted, 64-5 

'relegated' things, 31 

Rhodes, 127, 129, 142 


Robins, R.H., 99 

Rome, 141-8, 149 

Rubellius Plautus, 144 
Rusticus, Junius Arulenus, 146 
Rusticus, Q.Junius, 147, 175 

Sambursky, S., 71 

scepticism, 41, 120-1 

Scipio the younger, 118, 123, 142 

seismology, 138, 158 

selection of aims, 36, 55-8 

self-preservation, 32-3, 123, 171 

self-sufficiency, 22, 37, 167 

Seltman, C.T.,21 

Seneca, L. Annaeus, 17, 37, 44, 

130, 138, 144, 149-61 ; OnAnger, 

51, 152, 160; Apocolocyntosis, 

151, 161; Calm of Mind, 154; 

OnClemency, 152-3, 159; 

Consolation to Helvia, 150; 

Consolation to Polybius, 150; 

Constancy of the Wise Man, 154; 

The Happy Life, 155; Letters on 

Morality, 50, 51, 67, 73, 90, 

137, 151, 157, 174; On 

Providence, 107-8, 156; 

Questions about Nature, 79, 138, 

151, 158; On Services Rendered, 

44, 157, 159; The Shortness of 

Life, 155; tragedies, 160-1 ; 

Hercules on Oeta, 160 
sensation, 85 
Serenus, Annaeus, 154 
Sextus, Plutarch's nephew, 147 
Sextius, 160 
Sextus Empiricus, 17, 18, 70, 87, 

sexual intercourse, 25, 163, 169 
SicUy, 132-3 
sight, 85 

simpUcityoflife, 13, 112, 163 
Simplicius, 164 
slaves, treatment of, 128, 133, 

163, 168 
Socrates, 12-13,20,44 
sSphrosyne, 42, 125 
Sotio, 150, 159, 162 
soul, see psyche 
sources, 18-19; for Panaetius, 

123 ; for Posidonius, 130 



Sphaerus of the Bosphorus, 109, 

Stilpo, 22 

Strabo, 130, 131 

Stoa Poikae, 20 

Stoics, origin of name, 20 

style, of Antipater, 1 17; of 
Chrysippvis, 1 12-1 3 ; of 
Epictetus, 164; of Posidonius, 
129;ofSeneca, 161, 162; 
virtues of, 116 

suicide, 36, 48-52, 141, 144, 151 

sun, 74, 134 

syllogisms, 97-9, 175 

sympatkeia, 130 

Tacitus, 144 
Tarn, W.W., 133 
Tarsus, 112, 119, 142, 143 
tension {tonos), 42, 76-8, 83, 85, 

Tertullian, 177 
Theophrastus, 22, 35, 121 
Thrasea Paetus, 144-5 
tides, 131-2 
time, 90, 92 
Timon, satirist, 109 
Toussaint L'Ouverture, 164 

ultimate principles, 72-5 

value, moral, 30, 41 ; other, 29, 

30-1, 36, 41 
verse, use of, 110 
Vespasian, 145-6, 162 

virtue, 2 1, 23, 28-9, 38-9, 41-5, 

virtues, cardkial, 42-3, 124-5 
Vitruvius, 130 
Virgil, 16 
Vitellius, 145 
void, 78, 92 

wealth, 29, 127, 141, 155 

weatherlore, 120 

WeUes,G. Bradford, 23 

wiU, 160 

wisdom, 42, 46, 124, 131 

wise man (sage), 22, 26, 28, 
38-9, 43-5, 46-7, 49, 52, 67-8, 
126; and crafts, 44, 137 

Witt, R.E., 121 

world-cycles, 79 

Xenocrates, 13, 21, 74 
Xenophon, 20 

Zeller, E., 46 

ZenoofCitium, 14, 18, 19, 20-7, 
36, 49, 121, 140-1 ; ethics, 39, 
42, 44, 45, 46, 54, 64-5 ; God, 
69, 72 ; logic, 22, 95; natural 
science, 71, 75, 79, 92; 
perception, 85, 87-9; 
psychology, 82, 83, 84; On 
Mar^s JVature, 53-4; Republic, 

Zeno of Sidon, 10 

Zeno of Tarsus, 79, 1 15 

Zeus,37, 101, 110, 120, 168 

Zoster, 112 


The Stoics 

F.H. Sandbach 

'Not only one of the best but also the most comprehensive treatment of 
Stoicism written this century.' 

Times Literary Supplement 

Stoic philosophy had a profound effect on thought and conduct in the 
ancient world, and has continued to influence philosophers and thinkers 
from the Renaissance to the present day. Professor Sandbach, in this 
brilliant and original study, presents the main outlines of the system, 
concentrating in particular on the ethical teaching, historically the most 
important facet of the Stoic philosophy. The author traces the changes in 
doctrine and emphasis through the centuries, gives an account of individual 
thinkers and writers and describes the role played by adherents of the Stoic 
faith in contemporary society. The Stoics will be welcomed both by 
classicists and philosophers as well as by the general reader, as a lucid 
exposition of an important philosophy. 

The late F.H. Sandbach was a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge from 
1927 and of The British Academy from 1968. He was Brereton Reader and 
then Professor of Classics in the University of Cambridge. His numerous 
anicles have appeared widely in European and American journals; his 
books include Loeb Classical Library volumes of Plutarch's Moralia: the 
standard commentary on Menander (1973), The Comic Theatre of Greece 
and Rome (1977), und Aristotle and the Stoics (1985). He died in 1991. 

"Will prove lucid for the uninitiated and stimulating for the specialist.' 

Classical Review 

'He writes with conspicuous clarity and accuracy, and he has the gift for 
expressing fundamental ideas in a fresh and memorable way.' 

Times,Higher Educational Supplement 

ISBN D-fl722D-2S3-4