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Zeno of Citium

Zeno of Citium (c. 334 – c. 262 B.C.) was a Hellenistic thinker from Citium, Cyprus, and probably of Phoenician descent. He is regarded as the founder of the Stoic school of philosophy, which he established in Athens from about 300 B.C.. Zeno "preached that wise men should remain indifferent to the vanities of the transient world."

Following the ideas of the Academics, Zeno divided philosophy into three parts: Logic (a very wide subject including rhetoric, grammar, and the theories of perception and thought); Physics (not just science, but the divine nature of the universe as well); and Ethics, the end goal of which was to achieve happiness through the right way of living according to Nature. Because Zeno's ideas were later expanded upon by Chrysippus and other Stoics it can be difficult to determine precisely what he thought. [Source: Wikipedia]

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Zeno of Citium’s Life

The biographer Diogenes Laertius (A.D. 180-240) is the primary source on the lives of many of the great and not-so-great philosophers of antiquity. In his book “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers,” he wrote: “Zeno was the son of Innaseas, or Demeas, and a native of Citium, in Cyprus, which is a Grecian city, partly occupied by a Phoenician colony. He had his head naturally bent on one side, as Timotheus, the Athenian, tells us, in his work on Lives. And Apollonius, the Tyrian, says that he was thin, very tall, of a dark complexion; in reference to which some one once called him an Egyptian Clematis, as Chrysippus relates in the first yolume of his Proverbs: he had fat, flabby, weak legs, on which account Persaeus, in his Convivial Reminiscences, says that he used to refuse many invitations to supper; and he was very fond, as it is said, of figs both fresh and dried in the sun. [Source: Diogenes Laërtius: “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Book VII: The Stoics”, A.D. early 3rd century, translated by C.D. Yonge (London: George Bell & Sons, 1895)]

“He was a pupil, as has been already stated, of Crates. After that, they say that he became a pupil of Stilpon and of Xenocrates, for ten years, as Timocrates relates in his Life of Dion. He is also said to have been a pupil of Polemo. But Hecaton, and Apollonius, of Tyre, in the first book of his essay on Zeno, say that when he consulted the oracle, as to what he ought to do to live in the most excellent manner, the God answered him that he ought to become of the same complexion as the dead, on which he inferred that ho ought to apply himself to the reading of the books of the ancients. Accordingly, he attached himself to Crates in the following manner. Having purchased a quantity of purple from Phoenicia, he was shipwrecked close to the Piraeus; and when he had made his way from the coast as far as Athens, he sat down by a bookseller’s stall, being now about thirty years of age. And as he took up the second book of Xenophon’s Memorabilia and began to read it, he was delighted with it, and asked where such men as were described in that book lived; and as Crates happened very seasonably to pass at the moment, the book-seller pointed him out, and said, "Follow that man." From [260] that time forth he became a pupil of Crates; but though hea was in other respects very energetic in his application to philosophy, still he was too modest for the shamelessness of the Cynics. On which account, Crates, wishing to cure him of this false shame, gave him a jar of lentil porridge to carry through the Ceramicns; and when he saw that he was ashamed, and that he endeavored to hide it, he struck the jar with his staff, and broke it; and, as Zeno fled away, and the lentil porridge ran all down his legs, Crates called after him, "Why do you run away, my little Phœnician, you have done no harm?" For some time then he continued a pupil of Crates, and when he wrote his treatise entitled the Republic, some said, jokingly, that he bad written it upon the tail of the dog.

“And besides his Republic, he was the author also of the following works —a treatise on a Life according to Nature; one on Appetite, or the Nature of Man; one on Passions; one on the Becoming [rather: on Duty]; one on Law; one on the usual Education of the Greeks; one on Sight; one on the Whole; one on Signs; one on the Doctrines of the Pythagoreans; one on Things in General; one on Styles; five essays on Problems relating to Homer; one on the Bearing [rather: Reading] of the Poets. There is also an essay on Art by him, and two books of Solutions and Jests [rather: Refutations], and Reminiscences, and one called the Ethics of Crates. These are the books of which he was the author.”

Zeno of Citium as a Philosopher

Diogenes Laërtius wrote: “ But at last he left Crates, and became the pupil of the philosophers whom I have mentioned before, and continued with them for twenty years. So that it is related that be said, "I now find that I made a prosperous voyage when I was wrecked." But some affirm that he made this speech in reference to Crates. Others say, that while he was staying at Athens he heard of a shipwreck, and said, "Fortune does well in having driven us on philosophy." But as some relate the affair, he was not wrecked at all, but sold all his cargo at Athens, and then turned to philosophy. [Source: Diogenes Laërtius: “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Book VII: The Stoics”, A.D. early 3rd century, translated by C.D. Yonge (London: George Bell & Sons, 1895)]

“And he used to walk up and down in the beautiful colonnade which is called the Priscanactium, and which is also called poikilê, from the paintings of Polygnotus, and there he delivered his discourses, wishing to make that spot tranquil; for in the time of the thirty, nearly fourteen hundred of the citizens had been murdered there by them.

“Accordingly, for the future, men came thither to hear him, and from this his pupils were called Stoics, and so were his successors also, who had been at first called Zenonians, as Epicurus tells us in his Epistles. And before this time, the poets who frequented this colonnade (stoa) had been called Stoics, as we are informed by Eratosthenes, in the eighth book of his treatise on the Old Comedy; but now Zeno‘s pupils made the name more notorious. Now the Athenians had a great respect for Zeno, so that they gave him the keys of their walls, and they also honoured him with a golden crown, and a brazen statue; and this was also done by his own countrymen, who thought the statue of such a man an honour to their city. And the Cittiaeans, in the district of Sidon, also claimed him as their countryman.

“He was also much respected by Antigonus [Antigonus II Gonatas of Macedonia], who, whenever he came to Athens, used to attend his lectures, and was constantly inviting him to come to him. But he begged off himself, and sent Persaeus, one of his intimate friends, who was the son of Demetrius, and a Cittiaean by birth, and who flourished about the hundred and thirtieth olympiad, when Zeno was an old man.”

Zeno of Citium’s Character and Habits

Zeno of Citium

Diogenes Laërtius wrote: “He used to eat little loaves and honey, and to drink a small quantity of sweet smelling wine. He had very few youthful acquaintances of the male sex, and he did not cultivate them much, lest be should be thought to be a misogynist. And he dwelt in the same house with Persaeus; and once, when he brought in a female flute-player to him, he hastened to bring her back to him. And he was, it is said, of a very accommodating temper; so much so, that Antigonus, the king, often came to dine with him, and often carried him off to dine with hirn, at the house of Aristocles the harp-player; but when he was there, he would presently steal away. [Source: Diogenes Laërtius: “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Book VII: The Stoics”, A.D. early 3rd century, translated by C.D. Yonge (London: George Bell & Sons, 1895)]

“It is also said that he avoided a crowd with great care, so that he used to sit at the end of a bench, in order at events to avoid being incommoded on one side. And he never used to walk with more than two or three companions. An he used at times to exact a piece of money from all who came to bear him, with a view of not being distressed by numbers; and this story is told by Cleanthes, in his treatise on Brazen Money. And when he was surrounded by any great crowd, would point to a balustrade of wood at the end of the colonnade which surrounded an altar, and say, "That was once in the middle of this place, but it was placed apart because it was in people’s way; and now, if you will only withdraw from the middle here, you too will incommode me much less."

“And when Demochares, the son of Laches, embraced him once, and said that he would tell Antigonus, or write to him of everything which he wanted, as he always did everything for him, Zeno, ‚when he had heard him say this, avoided his company for the future. And it is said, that after the death of Zeno, Antigonus said, "What a spectacle have I lost." On which account he employed Thrason, their ambassador, to entreat of the Athenians to allow him to be buried in the Ceramicus. And when he was asked why he had such an admiration for him, he replied, "Because, though I gave him a great many important presents, he was never elated, and never humbled."

“He was a man of a very investigating spirit, and one who inquired very minutely into everything; in reference to which, Timon, in his Silli, speaks thus:
“I saw an aged woman of Phoenicia,
Hungry and covetous, in a proud obscurity,
Longing for everything. She had a basket
So full of holes that it retained nothing.
Likewise her mind was less than a simdapsus [W sort of guitar or violin.]"

“He used to study very carefully with Philo, the dialectician, and to argue with him at their mutual leisure; on which account he excited the wonder of the younger Zeno, no less than Diodorus his master.

“There were also a lot of dirty beggars always about him, as Timon tells us, where he says
Till he collected a vast cloud of beggars,
Who were of all men in the world the poorest,
And the most worthless citizens of Athens.

“And he himself was a man of a morose and bitter countenance, with a constantly frowning expression. He was very economical, and descended even to the meanness of the barbarians, under the pretence of economy.

“If he reproved any one, he did it with brevity and without exaggeration, and as it were, at a distance. I allude, for instance, to the way in which he spoke of a man who took exceeding pains in setting himself off, for as he was crossing a gutter with great hesitation, he said, "He is right to look down upon the mud, for he cannot see himself in it." And when some Cynic one day said that he had no oil in his cruise, and asked him for some, he refused to give him any, but bade him go away and consider which of the two was the more impudent. He was very much in love with Chremonides; and once, when he and Cleanthes were both sitting by him, he got up; and as Cleanthes wondered at this, he said, "I hear from skilful physicians that the best thing for some tumours is rest." Once, when two people were sitting above him at table at a banquet, and the one next him kept kicking the other with his foot, he himself kicked him with his knee; and when he turned round upon him for doing so, he said, "Why then do you think that your other neighbour is to be treated in this way by you?"

Stories About Zeno of Citium

Diogenes Laërtius wrote: “On one occasion he said to a man who was very fond of young boys, that "Schoolmasters who were always associating with boys had no more intellect than the boys themselves." He used also to say that the discourses of those men who were careful to avoid solecisms, and to adhere to the strictest rules of composition, were like Alexandrine money, they were pleasing to the eye and well-formed like the coni, but were nothing the better for that; but those who were not so particular he likened to the Attic tessedrachmas, which were struck at random and without any great nicety, and so he said that their [266] discourses often outweighed the more polished styles of the others. And when Ariston, his disciple, had been holding forth a good deal without much wit, but still in some points with a good deal of readiness and confidence, he said to him, "It would be impossible for you to speak thus, if your father had not been drunk when he begat you;" and for the same reason he nicknamed him the chatterer, as he himself was very concise in his speeches. Once, when he was in company with an epicure who usually left nothing for his messmates, and when a large fish was set before him, he took it all as if he could eat the whole of it; and when the others looked at him with astonishment, he said, "What then do you think that your companions feel every day, if you cannot bear with my gluttony for one day?" [Source: Diogenes Laërtius: “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Book VII: The Stoics”, A.D. early 3rd century, translated by C.D. Yonge (London: George Bell & Sons, 1895)]

“On one occasion, when a youth was asking him questions with a pertinacity unsuited to his age, he led him to a looking-glass and bade him look at himself, and then asked him whether such questions appeared suitable to the face he saw there. And when a man said before him once, that in most points he did not agree with the doctrines of Antisthenes, he quoted to him an apophthegm of Sophocles, and asked him whether he thought there was much sense in that, and when he said that he did not know, "Are you not then ashamed," said he, "to pick out and recollect anything bad which may have been said by Antisthenes, but not to regard or remember what. ever is said that is good?" A man once said, that the sayings of the philosophers appeared to him very trivial; "You say true," replied Zeno, "and their syllables too ought to be short, if that is possible." When some one spoke to him of Polemo, and said that he proposed one question for discussion and then argued another, he became angry, and said, "At what value did he estimate the subject that had been proposed?" And he said that a man who was to discuss a question ought to have a loud voice and great energy, like the actors, but not to open his mouth too wide, which those who speak a great deal but only talk nonsense usually do. And he used to say that there was no need for those who argued well to leave their hearers room to look about them, as good workmen do ‚who want to have their work seen; but that, on the contrary, those who are listening to them ought to be so attentive to all that is said as to have no leisure to take notes.

“Once when a young man was talking a great deal, he said, "Your ears have run down into your tongue." On one occasion a very handsome man was saying that a wise man did not appear to him likely to fall in love; "Then," said he, "I cannot imagine anything that will be more miserable than you good-looking fellows." He also used often to say that most philosophers were wise in great things, but ignorant of petty subjects and chance details; and he used to cite the saying of Caphesius, who, when one of his pupils was labouring hard to be able to blow very powerfully, gave him a slap, and said, that excellence did not depend upon greatness, but greatness on excellence. Once, when a young man was arguing very confidently, he said, "I should not like to say, O youth, all that occurs to me." And once, when a handsome and wealthy Rhodian, but one who had no other qualification, was pressing him to take him as a pupil, he, as he was not inclined to receive him, first of all made him sit on the dusty seats that he might dirt his cloak, then he put him down in the place of the poor that he might rub against their rags, and at last the young man went away. One of his sayings used to be, that vanity was the most unbecoming of all things, and especially so in the young. Another was, that one ought not to try and recollect the exact words and expressions of a discourse, but to fix all one‘s attention on the arrangement of the arguments, instead of treating it as if it were a piece of boiled meat, or some delicate eatable. He used also to say that young men ought to maintain the most scrupulous reserve in their walking, their gait, and their dress; and he was constantly quoting the lines of Euripides on Capaneus, that: His wealth was ample.
But yet no pride did mingle with his state,
Nor had he haughty thought, or arrogance
More than the poorest man.

“And one of his sayings used to be, that nothing was more unfriendly to the comprehension of the accurate sciences than poetry; and that there was nothing that we stood in so much need of as time. When he was asked what a friend was, he replied, "Another I." They say that he was once scourging a slave whom he had detected in theft; and when he said to him, "It was fated that I should steal ;" he rejoined, "Yes, and that you should be beaten." He used to call beauty the flower of the voice; but some report this as if he had said that the voice is the flower of beauty. On one occasion, when he saw a slave belonging to one of his friends severely bruised, he said to his friend, "I see the footsteps of your anger." He once accosted a man who was all over unguents and perfumes, "Who is this who smells like a woman ?" When Dionysius Metathemenus asked him why he was the only person whom he did not correct, he replied, "Because I have no confidence in you." A young man was talking a great deal of nonsense, and he said to him, "This is the reason why we have two ears and only one mouth, that we may hear more and speak less."

“Once, when he was at an entertainment and remained wholly silent, he was asked what the reason was; and so he bade the person who found fault with him tell the king that there was a man in the room who knew how to hold his tongue; now the people who asked him this were ambassadors who had come from Ptolemy, and who wished to know what report they were to make of him to the king. He was once asked how he felt when people abused him, and he said, "As an ambassador feels when he is sent away without an answer." Apollonius of Tyre tells us, that when Crates dragged him by the cloak away from Stilpo, he said. "O Crates, the proper way to take hold of philosophers is by the ears; so now do you convince me and drag me by them; but if you use force towards me, my body may be with you, but my mind with Stilpo."

Zeno of Citium’s Ideas

Diogenes Laërtius wrote: “ He used to devote a good deal of time to Diodorus, as we learn from Hippobotus; and he studied dialectics under him. And when he had made a good deal of progress he attached himself to Polemo because of his freedom from arrogance, so that it is reported that he said to him, "I am not ignorant, O Zeno, that you slip into the garden-door and steal my doctrines, and then clothe them in a Phoenician dress." When a dialectician once showed him seven species of dialectic argument in the mowing argument [The Greek is, en tôi therizonti logô, a species species of argument so called, because he who used it mowed or knocked down his adversaries — Aldob.], he asked him how much he charged for them, and when he said "A hundred drachmea,""he gave him two hundred, so exceedingly devoted was he to learning. [Source: Diogenes Laërtius: “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Book VII: The Stoics”, A.D. early 3rd century, translated by C.D. Yonge (London: George Bell & Sons, 1895)]

“They say too, that he was the first who ever employed the word duty (kathêkon), and who wrote a treatise on the subject. And that he altered the lines of Hesiod thus:
He is the best of all men who submits
To follow good advice; he too is good,
Who of himself perceives whate‘er is fit.
For he said that that man who had the capacity to give a proper hearing to what was said, and to avail himself of it, was superior to him who comprehended everything by his own intellect; for that the one had only comprehension, but the one who took good advice had action also.

“When he was asked why he, who was generally austere, relaxed at a dinner party, he said, "Lupins too are bitter, but when they are soaked they become sweet." And Hecaton, in the second book of his Apophthegms, says, that in entertainments of that kind, he used to indulge himself freely. And he used to say that it was better to trip with the feet, than with the tongue. And that goodness was attained by little and little, but was not itself a small thing. Some authors, however, attribute this saying to Socrates.

“He was a person of great powers of abstinence and endurance; and of very simple habits, living on food which required no fire to dress it, and wearing a thin cloak, so that it was said of him:
“The cold of winter, and the ceaseless rain,
Come powerless against him; weak is the dart
Of the fierce summer sun, or fell disease,
To bend that iron frame. He stands apart,
In nought resembling the vast common crowd;
But, patient and unwearied, night and day,
Clings to his studies and philosophy.

“And the comic poets, without intending it, praise him in their very attempts to turn him into ridicule. Philemon speaks thus of him in his play entitled the Philosophers :
“This man adopts a new philosophy,
He teaches to be hungry; nevertheless,
He gets disciples. Bread his only food,
His best desert dried figs; water his drink.

“But some attribute these lines to Posidippus. And they have become almost a proverb. Accordingly it used to be said of him, "More temperate than Zeno the philosopher." Posidippus also writes thus in his Men Transported : ‘So that for ten whole days he did appear/ More temperate than Zeno’s self.’”

Death of Zeno of Citium

Diogenes Laërtius wrote: “ “For in reality he did surpass all men in this description of virtue, and in dignity of demeanour, and, by Jove, in happiness. For he lived ninety-eight years, and then died, without any disease, and continuing in good health to the last. But Persaes, in his Ethical School, states that he died at the age of seventy-two, and that he came to Athens when he was twenty-two years old. But Apollonius says that he presided over his school for forty-eight years. [Source: Diogenes Laërtius: “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Book VII: The Stoics”, A.D. early 3rd century, translated by C.D. Yonge (London: George Bell & Sons, 1895)]

“And he died in the following manner. When he was going out of his school, he tripped, and broke one of his toes; and striking the ground with his hand, he repeated the line out of the Niobe: “I come: why call me so?” And immediately he strangled himself, and so he died. But the Athenians buried him in the Ceramicus, and honoured him with the decrees which I have mentioned before, bearing witness to his virtue. And Antipater, the Sidonian, wrote an inscription for him, which runs thus:
“Here Cittium‘s pride, wise Zeno, lies, who climb‘d
The summits of Olympus; but unmoved
By wicked thoughts ne‘er strove to raise on Ossa
The pine-clad Pelion; nor did he emulate
Th’ immortal toils of Hercules; but found
A new way for himself to th‘ highest heaven,
By virtue, temperance, and modesty.

“And Zenodotus, the Stoic, a disciple of Diogenes, wrote another:
You made contentment the chief rule of life,
Despising haughty wealth, O God-like Zeno.
With solemn look, and hoary brow serene,
You taught a manly doctrine; and didst found
By your deep wisdom, a great novel school,
Chaste parent of unfearing liberty.
And if your country was Phoenicia,
Why need we grieve, from that land Cadmus came,
Who gave to Greece her written books of wisdom.

“And Athenaeus, the Epigrammatic poet, speaks thus of all the Stoics in common
O, ye who’ve learnt the doctrines of the Porch,
And have committed to your books divine
The best of human learning; teaching men
That the mind’s virtue is the only good.
And she it is who keeps the lives of men,
And cities, safer than high gates or walls.
But those who place their happiness in pleasure,
Are led by the least worthy of the Muses.

“And we also have ourselves spoken of the manner of Zeno’s death, in our collection of poems in all metres, in the following terms:
“Some say that Zeno, pride of Citium,
Died of old age, when weak and quite worn out;
Some say that famine‘s cruel tooth did slay him;
Some that he fell, and striking hard the ground,
Said, "See, I come, why call me thus impatiently?"



Chrysippus (c. 280—207 B.C.) was a leading voice in the Stoic movement and one of the most influential philosophers of the Hellenistic period. Jeremy Kirby of Albion College wrote in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “He is usually thought of as the most important influence on Stoicism. A later Stoic catchphrase ran, "If Chrysippus had not existed, neither would the Stoa." (Lives 292). Carneades, the fourth Chair of the New Academy, modified the phrase to, "If Chrysippus had not existed, neither would I." (Lives 438) Chrysippus defended and developed an empiricist epistemology and psychology. He offered important alternatives to the metaphysical theories of Aristotle and Plato, defending a thoroughgoing materialist ontology. His views concerning freedom and determinism continue to generate interest, and he is thought to have endorsed a form of compatibilism countenancing both freedom of the will and a deterministic cosmos. His work in logic was considerable, as he developed, as an alternative to the logic of Aristotle, a kind of propositional logic. As an ethicist, he maintained that the life of human happiness and the life of virtue are one and the same. He seems to have thought virtue is best understood as related essentially, if not entirely reducible, to wisdom. And he thought wisdom derives especially from the study of natural philosophy. That Chrysippus would take wisdom to derive primarily from the study of natural philosophy may be explained, in part, by his conviction that the cosmos exists in accordance with proper ends. [Source: Jeremy Kirby, Albion College, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP) ]

“Chrysippus was born in Soli, near what is today known as Mersin, Turkey. He died in the 143rd Olympiad at the age of seventy-three (living c. 280-207 B.C.E.). Diogenes Laertius, in his Lives of the Philosophers, reports that before becoming a student of Cleanthes, Chrysippus used to practice as a long-distance runner (287 B.C.E.). He was a master dialectician. Most people thought, according to Diogenes Laertius, that if the gods took to dialectic, they would adopt no other system than that of Chrysippus (289 B.C.E.). Cleanthes had succeeded Zeno, who had founded the school at the Stoa Poikilê in 262 B.C.E. Chrysippus, having taught outside the school for a number of years, returned to succeed his former teacher in 230 B.C.E. Stoicism continued to flourish after his death, as the work begun by early Stoics was continued in the era of Panaetius and Posidonius, and later into the Roman Imperial period by thinkers such as Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius.

“Chrysippus was a prolific writer. He is reported to have written more than 705 books (SVF 2.1). No single treatise remains, and we have something in the neighborhood of 475 fragments. Two doxographies stand out—Diogenes Laertius’ Lives of the Philosophers, hereafter, and above, (Lives), and pseudo-Plutarch’s Philosopher’s Opinions on Nature. Cicero writes several works that are of use in reconstructing Stoic thought: Academica, De Finibus, and De Natura Deorum, are among the most important. These contain summaries and critical evaluations of the views of the Hellenistic schools, and although Cicero identifies with the Academics, he is not without sympathy for Stoic philosophy. It is from these sources primarily that scholars have attempted to cobble together a set of fragments and testimonia that present a coherent picture of Stoicism and Stoic philosophers.

Chrysippus Epistemology

Jeremy Kirby of Albion College wrote in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “Zeno, the founder of Stoicism, defined ‘presentation’ as an impression (phantasia) upon the soul (SVF I 58). That he neglected to indicate what he meant by ‘impression’ is suggested by the controversy between Cleanthes and Chrysippus concerning the exegesis of this term. Cleanthes maintained that an object impresses itself on the soul just as a signet ring impresses itself upon a wax seal—a metaphor Plato had made use of in the Theaetetus (191c8). Chrysippus rejects this model by arguing that if the soul were like a piece of wax (with only one surface exposed), it might only receive one impression at a time. Furthermore, every impression would be lost as the next image impinged upon the former. The soul, however, as Chrysippus argues, receives a number of impressions at once, and it does, in fact, retain some impression while receiving others (Lives 7.50). In place of the wax model, Chrysippus argues that the soul is more akin to air, as air is able to undergo a number of alterations simultaneously, as when a number of individuals are speaking at the same time in the same place. (In fact, the soul, according to Chrysippus, who was a thoroughgoing materialist, is a mixture of air and fire). Chrysippus seems, therefore, to accept an indirect realist view of perception, whereby an impression can represent an external object, i.e., a phantaston. [Source: Jeremy Kirby, Albion College, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP) ]

“Chrysippus says that these four, [impression, impressor, imagination, and figment] are to be distinguished from one another. An impression is an affection occurring in the soul that reveals itself and its cause. Thus, when through sight we observe something white, the affection is what is engendered in the soul through vision; and it is this affection (pathos) that enables us to say there is a white object that activates us. The word ‘impression’ (phantasia) is derived from the word light (phõs); just as light reveals itself and whatever else it includes in its range, so impression reveals itself and its cause. (SVF 2.54)

“Not every presentation is, however, accurate. Some presentations lack a corresponding ‘impressor’. Although we see what appears to be Clint Eastwood on the silver screen, nobody believes that Clint is actually up there (LS 236). Chrysippus considers a presentation such as this one to be the result of imagination, or a phantastikon. A presentation that is believed, but which lacks an underlying real object, as for example the dragoness of Hades as it appears to Orestes, would be classified as a figment, or a phantasma. Imagination is an empty attraction, an affection in the soul which arises from no impressor…A figment is that to which we are attracted in the empty attraction of imagination; it occurs in people who are melancholic and mad.

Chrysippus and Logic

Jeremy Kirby of Albion College wrote: “The Stoics’ appreciation for logic probably originated with the school’s founder. Zeno studied with Stilpo the Megarian. And Megara was the home of a number of important philosophers engaging in a discipline that we would today call logic. Chrysippus, without question, is the philosopher most responsible for the logic associated with the Stoics. In the following section, we will consider some of the elements that set his logic apart from that of his predecessors, as well as the propositional logic that most students of philosophy are familiar with today. [Source: Jeremy Kirby, Albion College, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP) ] “One way of understanding Chrysippus’ contribution to logic is to see what Stoic arguments are not. Consider the following argument:
“All mammals are warm-blooded animals.
All warm-blooded animals are sanguineous.
So: All mammals are sanguineous.

“Aristotle called an argument of this variety a syllogism. He took it as evident that given the truth of the premises, the conclusion is likewise true. Indeed, one need not know the meaning of the terms in the argument to determine that the conclusion follows logically from the premises. One may simply consider the form of the argument:
All A are B A = mammals
All B are C B = warm-blooded animals
So: All A are C C = sanguineous

“Logicians consider arguments wherein the conclusion follows from the premises, in just this way, to be valid. It is important to recognize that an argument’s having true premises provides neither necessary nor sufficient grounds for it to be valid. The following argument is valid, as the conclusion follows from the premises, even though the premises would rightly be resisted. The argument thereafter has true premises, but it is clearly invalid, as the premises may be true although the conclusion is false.
All trout are mammals. No viviparous animal is a trout.
All mammals are oviparous. No trout is a mammal.
So: All trout are oviparous. So: No viviparous animal is a mammal.

“Consider, next, the following argument. It is clearly valid, but how would one fit it into an Aristotelian syllogism?
If Plato walks, then Plato moves. p = Plato walks.
Plato walks. q = Plato moves.
So: Plato moves.

“Aristotle resisted the idea that there could be a scientific demonstration that concerned individuals. (Notice that the Aristotelian arguments above made use of classes). The argument currently under discussion resists an Aristotelian formulation, for the relata herein are propositions—Stoics called these ‘sayables’—rather than classes. In Aristotelian logic, the key connectives are ‘all’, ‘some’, ‘is’, and ‘is not’. In Chrysippus’ logic, the key connectives are ‘if’, ‘or’, ‘and’, and ‘not’.”


Cleanthes (331—232 B.C.E.) was a Stoic philosopher of Assus in Lydia, and a disciple of Zeno of Citium. After the death of Zeno he presided over his school. He was originally a wrestler, and in this capacity he visited Athens, where he became acquainted with philosophy. Although he possessed no more than four drachma, he was determined to put himself under an eminent philosopher. His first master was Crates, the Academic. He afterward became Zeno's disciple and an advocate of his doctrines. By night he drew water as a common laborer in the public gardens so that he would have leisure to attend lectures in the daytime. [Source: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP) ]

“The Athenian citizens observed that, although he appeared strong and healthy, he had no visible means of subsistence; they then summoned him before the Areopagas, according to the custom of the city, to give an account of his manner of living. He then produced the gardener for whom he drew water, and a woman for whom he ground meal, as witnesses to prove that he lived by the labor of his hands. The judges of the court were struck with such admiration of his conduct, that they ordered ten minae to be paid him out of the public treasury. Zeno, however, did not allow him to accept it. Antigonus afterward presented him with three thousand minae. From the manner in which this philosopher supported himself, he was called "the well drawer." For many years he was so poor that he was compelled to take notes on Zeno's lectures on shells and bones, since he could not afford to buy better materials. He remained, however, a pupil of Zeno for nineteen years.

“His natural faculties were slow. But resolution and perseverance enabled him to overcome all difficulties. At last he became so complete a master of Stoicism that he was perfectly qualified to succeed Zeno. His fellow disciples often ridiculed him for his dullness by calling him an ass. However, his answer was, that if he were an ass he was the better able to bear the weight of Zeno's doctrine. He wrote much, but none of his writings remain except a hymn to Zeus. After his death, the Roman senate erected a statue in honor of him at Assus. It is said that he starved himself to death in his 99th year.”

Marcus Aurelius (ruled 161-180)

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius (born A.D. 121, ruled 161-180) was the adopted son of Antonius Pius. He is regarded as a reflective philosopher-emperor and the last of the good emperors. He took the throne at a time when Rome's shortcomings and vulnerability were becoming apparent. The rich were hopelessly decadent, the middle class was disappearing, labor was performed mostly by slaves, and threats were present in the north and the east.

“Marcus Aelius Aurelius Antoninus, was born in 121, was adopted by the emperor Antoninus Pius and succeeded him in 161, (as joint emperor with adoptive brother Lucius Verus). He ruled alone from 169. He spent much of his reign in putting down variou rebellions, and was a persecutor of Christians. His fame rest, above all, on his Meditations, a series of reflections, strongly influenced by Epictetus, which represent a Stoic outlook on life. He died in 180 and was succeed by his natural son, thus ending the period of the adoptive emperors.

Marcus Aurelius spent two decades fighting four wars and an outbreak of the plague. Germans invaded Italy in 167 and Parthians challenged Roman forces in the Middle East. After the death Lucius Verus, Marcus Aurelius adopted brother and co-ruler of Rome, Marcus Aurelius spent much of his time on the Danubian frontier fending off attacks from German and Gothic tribes.

Marcus Aurelius and the Stoic Philosophy

Marcus Aurelius followed the stoic philosophy. He dressed plainly and lived frugally and wrote a book on philosophy called Meditations that is still quoted today. In regard to his position, Marcus Aurelius wrote: "As the Emperor, Rome is my homeland; but as a man, I am a citizen of the world...Asia and Europe are mere dots on the map, the ocean is a drop of water, Mount Athos is a grain of sand in the universe."

Marcus Aurelius believed that the good of society had precedence over individual comforts. While he was fending off invaders, he passed many reforms, suppressed gladiator spectacles, passed laws protecting slaves. Although his philosophy dovetailed with many Christian doctrines he persecuted Christian because they were regarded as a threat to the empire. His image endures on a famous equestrian statue in Rome.

Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations

Meditations is a treatise on the Stoic philosophy extolling the importance of virtue. In modern China, after Premier Wen Jiabao claimed he had read Marcus Aurelius's Meditations nearly 100 times the work became a top seller in China, reaching No. 5 on the bestseller list.

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: ““The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius provide a fascinating picture of a would-be Stoic sage at work on himself. The book, also called To Himself, is the emperor’s diary. In it, he not only reminds himself of the content of important Stoic teaching but also reproaches himself when he realises that he has failed to incorporate this teaching into his life in some particular instance. Today many people still turn to Stoicism as a form of psychological discipline. Stoicism has never been ‘purely academic’ and modern adaptations of Stoic thought seek to carry on this tradition of self-transformation. [Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1996, updated 2018]

See Romans

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy /, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Greece ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Hellenistic World ; BBC Ancient Greeks ; Canadian Museum of History ; Perseus Project - Tufts University; ; MIT, Online Library of Liberty, ; Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Live Science, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Discoverers" [∞] and "The Creators" [μ]" by Daniel Boorstin. "Greek and Roman Life" by Ian Jenkins from the British Museum.Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian and various books and other publications.

Last updated October 2018

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