A s the ancient world, the old Hellenic culture, came to an end, there were many thinkers who were not satisfied with the conclusions that found acceptance in the Academy or the Lyceum. In the midst of political and economic anxieties, the Greek mind continued to assert its originality and its independence. It was perhaps a consolation for the Greeks in their spiritual agony to believe that the most important thing in the world was not by any means to wield power but rather to know the truth and to practice virtue, and therefore they were ready to declare that one must give top priority to fundamental questions: What are the origin, nature, and purpose of the universe, and particularly of ourselves? When did the universe begin, if it ever began? Is it material or spiritual? What are we? Whence did we come and whither are we going? What is truth? Is it possible to know it? And if it is, how shall we know that we know? Can we understand the world and our place in it? What is virtue? Is it possible to reach it? ... We have already considered the answers that some philosophers, especially Plato and Aristotle, gave to these anxious questions, but other philosophers suggested other answers which we shall examine presently. The main point to keep in mind always is that these questions were not academic or idle. We might perhaps consider them that way, but that would be only because we ourselves have lost all sense of value, and are like sailors whose compass is lost or broken and who find that their ship no longer answers to the helm.

For the Greeks these were not academic questions but vital ones which are more urgent than such other questions as who is the king or the boss, how shall we pay the rent next month, do we ourselves deserve to be happy or not? Let us interrogate those earnest men. They belong to the following schools or sects: Cynics, Skeptics, Euhemerists, Epicureans, and Stoics.


The Cynic school is much older than Aristotle’s age; it can be traced back to Socrates (there were indeed cynical tendencies in his outlook and in his behavior), and Antisthenes, who was one of Socrates’ immediate pupils, is generally considered the founder of the sect. His father was an Athenian, but his mother was a Thracian. Therefore, he was educated at the Cynosarges, a gymnasium outside of Athens, sacred to Heracles, and reserved for those who were not of pure Athenian descent; he also taught in that school, and it has been suggested that the name of his sect was derived from Cynosarges. That is possible; it is more probable that the word cynic is derived from one of the roots of Cynosarges (cyon, cynos= dog) and thus originally meant doglike, because Antisthenes accentuated Socrates’ tendency to live in the simplest fashion and to disregard many of the social conventions and amenities.

Antisthenes’ dates are unknown; as he was a pupil of Gorgias and Socrates, he was still a youngish man at the end of the fifth century. His most famous disciple was Diogenes of Sinope,¹⁵⁷⁰ whose excesses of austerity have become proverbial. Diogenes’ father had been in charge of the mint of Sinope and had got into trouble, being accused of falsifying the coinage (paracharattein to nomisma). Whether his guilt was personal or political, he was obliged to leave Sinope.¹⁵⁷¹ He and his son Diogenes lived in great poverty; Antisthenes’ teaching was very welcome, at least to the younger man, who realized that poverty should not be considered a punishment but rather an accomplishment, the reward of exceptional virtue. Diogenes proclaimed the necessity of self–sufficiency (autarceia), austerity (asc sis), and shamelessness (anaideia), and made an aggressive display of his contempt of conventions. He did not add anything new to Antisthenes’ teaching but dramatized and advertised it. We have already told the (legendary) story of his rebuking the Master of the World, a story that is very much to Aiexander’s credit.

His main disciple was Crates, son of Ascondas of Thebes (c. 385–285),¹⁵⁷² who renounced a large fortune for the sake of philosophy and reduced his needs to the strict minimum; he converted the children of a distinguished Thracian family, Hipparchia and her brother Metrocles of Maroneia, and married the girl; they lived together like the poorest missionaries, like two beggars; he was somewhat of a poet and both of them seem to have been very lovable.

Let us name one more of Diogenes’ disciples, Onesicritos of Astypalaia (one of the Sporades). He was a seaman who had accompanied Alexander to Asia; he was chief pilot of the fleet built on the Hydaspes and remained in charge throughout the voyage down the Indus and up the Persian gulf. He was one of Alexander’s historians, of questionable veracity. Being a cynic he made of Alexander a cynic hero. He may have been right in this; it is highly probable that Alexander had acquired cynical tendencies; a successful dictator cannot help becoming cynical.

Of these four men — Antisthenes, Diogenes, Crates, and Onesicritos — only the first was a philosopher in the technical sense. Diogenes, Crates, and his wife Hipparchia were comparable to many other saints and ascetics, such as have flourished in almost every country, chiefly in the East. Crates especially was like a Hindu faqir, a Muslim darwîsh, and many a Christian hermit. There is a touch, or more, of cynicism in every saint. One wonders whether Diogenes or Crates had been influenced by Indian examples? That is possible but is not necessary to explain their behavior. Onesicritos must have seen fuqar ’ in India, but again he did not need, nor did Alexander need, such examples in order to advertise their contempt of the trappings and the vanities of life.

Cynicism was never a formal school. Antisthenes, it is true, had been explaining what might be called a cynical doctrine: happiness is based on virtue, virtue on knowledge; knowledge can be taught, hence virtue and happiness can be obtained, and the happiness thus obtained cannot be lost. His followers accepted that teaching, but their cynicism was a matter of behavior rather than of theory. They were more like missionaries and salvationists than theologians. Cynicism is a temperamental state of mind, independent of doctrine. Every philosophy or religion may produce its own cynics, its own saints.


While Onesicritos was trying to interpret life in cynical terms, another Greco–Indian, Pyrrhon, was developing a new doctrine which was, or might become, equally upsetting. Pyrrhon (c. 360—c. 270), son of Pleistarchos, hailed from Elis (northwest Peloponnesos); his parents being poor, he was obliged to learn a trade and became a painter. He was deeply interested in philosophy, however, and sat at the feet, first of Bryson, son of Stilpon,¹⁵⁷³ and later of Anaxarchos of Abdera, of the school of Democritos. It is said that both Anaxarchos and Pyrrhon accompanied Alexander into Asia (it is interesting to find so many philosophers and men of science associated with the conqueror; so did Bonaparte select many men of science for his expedition to Egypt).¹⁵⁷⁴ After his return, Pyrrhon settled in his native city Elis, where he lived in retirement, with great simplicity. He wrote nothing, except a poem addressed to Alexander, but he was immortalized by a faithful disciple, Timon of Phlius (c. 320–230),¹⁵⁷⁵ who extolled his master’s wisdom and virtue.

It cannot be said of Pyrrhon, as of most prophets, that he was without honor in his own country. On the contrary, his fellow citizens made him their high priest and erected a monument to his memory soon after his death. While other philosophers questioned the reality of matter (or the reality of no–matter), he was bolder still in that he doubted the possibility of knowledge. How can we be sure of anything? In particular, how could we know the nature of things? Do we not continually observe the contradictions of our sensual perceptions, of opinions, of customs? These contradictions prove the impossibility of knowledge. Therefore, if we are honest, we shall say not “This is so” but “This might be so,” nor “This is true,” but “This might be true.”¹⁵⁷⁶ This suspension of judgment (acatalëpsia, epoch ) created impassiveness (ataraxia), that is, a complete repose of the soul, freedom from passion (apatheia), indifference (adiaphoria) to outward things, to pleasure and pain. Pyrrhonism was a kind of quietism.

Pyrrhon did not create a regular school but he had admirers like Timon and he influenced a few other men, like Arcesilaos¹⁵⁷⁷ (c. 315–240) founder of the Middle Academy, Carneades (c. 213–129),¹⁵⁷⁸ founder of the New Academy, Ainesidemos ¹⁵⁷⁹ in the time of Cicero ( I–1 B.C.) or later, and Sextos Empiricos ( II–2 ) . Pyrrhonism, like Cynicism, is a state of mind rather than a philosophic system. There are always and everywhere some people who are skeptically minded, yet skepticism, in the Pyrrhonian sense or otherwise, is always limited and relative; nobody ever doubts everything or believes everything. The Pyrrhonian spirit is more or less illustrated by Montaigne’s motto, “Que sais–je?” and by Lagrange’s favorite answer, “Je ne sais pas.” A man of science cannot do good work if his imagination is not continually restrained by skepticism or agnosticism.


Another set of opinions was crystallized at about this time by the Sicilian Euhemeros of Messina, who flourished at the court of Cassandros.¹⁵⁸⁰ He was said to have sailed down the Red Sea and across the Arabian Sea and to have reached an Indian island called Panchaia, where he found sacred inscriptions. Whether his travels and discoveries are real or imaginary, he wrote a description of them entitled Hiera anagraph (Sacred history), wherein he emphasized the historical origin of myths. It was an attempt to rationalize mythology, that is, Greek religion.

This was hardly a novelty, though Euhemeros’ book (of which only fragments remain) may have been the first publication, or the first popular publication, of these views. He may have been impressed by the Egyptian usage, imitated by the Greeks, of deification or apotheosis of mortals. Thus, the Egyptian physician Imhotep had become a hero and later a god, and the same thing had happened to the Greek physician Asclepios. There were intermediary beings between men and gods, namely, heroes; the lines between men and heroes on the one hand, and between heroes and gods on the other, were not sharply drawn. It was possible to pass from one group to the other, and if so, was it not natural enough to postulate human origins or relationships for all the gods? Was not Greek mythology exceedingly anthropomorphic? How could one believe that the gods were essentially different from men, when every story told about them illustrated human characteristics and weaknesses? We may safely assume that long before Euhemeros’ time almost every man of science had become accustomed to consider mythology as a kind of poetry which it sufficed to love; none of them expected one to believe it. The reality of religion was to be found, not in the myths, but rather in the rites and festivals, in the celebration of which the Greeks satisfied their love of beauty and sublimity, uttered their consciousness of divine mysteries, and expressed their spiritual brotherhood. Unfortunately, the celebration of those festivals encouraged clerical impostures which were bound to evoke as much criticism as the very myths.

The same kind of anticlerical¹⁵⁸¹ criticism was taught by the Cyrenaic school, founded by one of Socrates’ pupils, Aristippos of Cyrene. His philosophy was hedonistic and rationalist. The teaching of it was continued by his daughter Arete, her son Aristippos the Younger (ho m trodidactos,he who received his training from his mother), and a few others, Antipater of Cyrene, Theodoros the Atheist, Hegesias, and Anniceris the younger. Euhemeros may have been influenced by the Cyrenaic school, but there is no means of proving that and no need of postulating it. Rationalism was as congenial to a few Greeks as superstition was natural to many others.

Euhemerism was reëxplained in Latin by Ennius ( II–1 B.C.) and in Greek by Diodoros of Sicily ( I–2 B.C.); it was exploited by the early Christians in their anti–Pagan propaganda. It is one aspect, out of many, of the eternal war between reason and superstition.



We have tried to give our readers some idea of the greatness of Democritos of Abdera (pp. 251–256), one of the purest glories of the second half of the fifth century. There was in Greece such an exuberance of genius that some of it was lost and forgotten. Democritos was overlooked during the best part of the fourth century. Plato never mentioned him; Aristotle referred to him often but only for the sake of adverse criticism. Happily, his philosophy, if not his personality, was resurrected in the last quarter of the century by a new prophet, Epicuros.

Epicuros (341–270) was a scion of a noble Athenian family, but his father Neocles had moved to Samos, and Epicuros was probably born, and certainly educated, in that island. He was a precocious boy, who took to the study of philosophy at the age of fourteen and was already well educated when he went to Athens four years later, no doubt in order to pass the civic examination (docimasia) that would entitle him to be enrolled among the eph boi of his ancestral deme. At the time of his visit (323), Perdiccas, guardian of Alexander’s sons, the general who tyrannized the city, obliged the Athenian colonists established in Samos to leave the island. Thus, Epicuros did not return to Samos but roamed with his family along the Asiatic coast, remaining for a short time in various places, chiefly the Ionian cities Colophon and Teos (try to visualize a group of uprooted Athenians, refugees, “D.P.’s,” moving from place to place). In Teos, he received some instruction from Nausiphanes,¹⁵⁸³ who explained the philosophy of Democritos. At the age of 30 (in 311) he settled down in Mitylene and began his own career as an independent philosopher. His influence even then must have been considerable because his three brothers¹⁵⁸⁴ were among his disciples; this extraordinary circumstance is a credit not only to his persuasiveness but to his fundamental goodness. After a while, the new school was moved to Lampsacos, on the Asiatic side of the Dardanelles, and there Epicuros gained the adherence of more disciples, such as Metrodoros, Colotes, Polyainos, Idomeneus, and Leonteus and his wife Themista.¹⁵⁸⁵

The success thus far obtained determined Epicuros to move his school to Athens, for there only could the influence of a new philosophic school be completely established. He returned to his native country in 307, during the tyranny of Demetrios Poliorcetes (king of Macedonia), and bought a house and garden¹⁵⁸⁶ in Melita (between the city and the harbor Peiraieus). The rest of his life was spent there, some thirty–seven years. He could begin in good style, like a recognized master, for many of his disciples, including his own family, had come with him, and soon new disciples were attracted, among them Hermarchos of Mitylene, who was to be his successor, Pythocles, Timocrates, brother of Metrodoros. Slaves were admitted, such as Mys, whom Epicuros manumitted, and women, even courtesans, such as Leontion, who became Metrodoros’ wife.

Teaching in the “garden of Epicuros” was informal and life very simple and brotherly. Yet the presence of women was soon a pretext for gossip, and the success of the school, a cause of jealousy. Some of the adversaries affected to be scandalized and the ill repute that still sticks to the name “Epicurean” was attached to it in Melita before the end of the century.

These slanders increased the devotion of the disciples to their master, and life continued to be friendly and simple for many years. At the age of seventy Epicuros died; the house and garden had been bequeathed to Hermarchos for the use of the school, and provision was made for the celebration of festivals and for the care of the son and daughter of Metrodoros, who had died before Epicuros.

Epicuros’ writings were numerous, filling three hundred rolls; most of them are lost, but we have extracts from many in Greek or Latin. The most important were the Canon, said to have been derived from the Tripod of Nausiphanes of Teos, and the treatise on Nature ( in 37 books ) which contained the most elaborate account of his scientific views. Diogenes Laërtios has transmitted to us a collection of forty Sovran maxims (cyriai doxai) and the letters of Epicuros to three of his disciples, Herodotos, Pythocles, and Menoiceus. Another collection of eighty maxims was discovered in a Vatican manuscript and published in 1888. In addition to these writings and to the fragments embedded in classical literature, we must still mention two unusual sources that have enriched our knowledge of Epicuros and of the Epicurean tradition. First, papyrus rolls found in the excavations of Herculaneum gave us writings of the Epicurean Philodemos of Gadara ( Palestine ) , a contemporary of Cicero ( I–1 B.C.); second, a stone inscription found at Oinoanda in Lycia in 1884 preserved the Epicurean catechism written by a certain Diogenes.¹⁵⁸⁷ This devoted Epicurean had caused the inscription to be engraved for the admonition of the passers–by. The best source of Epicurean doctrine, however, is the De rerum natura which Lucretius wrote two centuries after the master’s death, the most remarkable monument ever built to the memory of a great philosopher.


The main physical theory of Epicuros was the atomic theory, which had been explained by Leucippos and Democritos, but of which he modified various details. Everything, whether material or spiritual, is made out of atoms. These atoms, of many shapes, are scattered everywhere; they are not necessarily close together; they are in a vacuum, so that it is possible for them to move from place to place and to collide. When a man dies, the atoms that constitute his soul are disengaged and distributed ¹⁵⁸⁸ just like those of his body. The gods themselves are made of atoms; they exist in a kind of intermediate paradise (ta metacosmia), empty spaces between the integrated worlds. Mind (nus) is a concentration of very fine atoms, while the vital spirit (psych ) is composed of subtle atoms distributed all over the body. Spiritual entities (such as gods, souls, minds ) differ from the material ones only in the finer and subtler nature of their atoms. Thus, everything is materialized, and it is not incorrect to speak of Epicurean atomism as materialism.

And yet Epicuros qualified this materialism and determinism in two ways. He admitted that the soul included some nameless (acatonomastos) element. For Epicuros fire (heat), wind (breath), air were elements added to the atoms and ubiquitous, but the soul and the mind implied the existence of a fourth element, subtler than the three others, which was as it were the soul of the soul.¹⁵⁸⁹ The other qualification was the conception of atomic swerve ( parenclisis t n atom n, clinamen ) , that is, the assumption of an irreducible amount of spontaneity and capriciousness in atomic motions.

These two qualifications are extraordinary; they illustrate Epicuros’ poetic genius but also the impossibility of driving spirituality completely out, even of the most thoroughgoing materialism. Throw the spirit out of the window and it comes back through invisible holes in the wall. That is what happened to Epicuros and to every materialist after him. He was a rationalist, yet his “nameless” element of the soul opened the door to occultism.

Epicureanism was much more, however, than atomism; atomism, we might say, was the physical core of Epicurean philosophy, and one that the master had modified in order to diminish friction and to leave a minimum of clearance and freedom.

One of his main ideas was that pleasure is the only good, but his conception of pleasure was very remote from coarse sensualism; the kind of pleasure he had in mind could be attained only by the exercise of many virtues, such as prudence and justice and the extirpation of many desires; it implied moderation, if not asceticism. Epicuros gave a new meaning to the old Greek maxim, m den agan, nothing too much (ne quid nimis).

Another idea of his that has been frequently misunderstood may be called sensationalism. In reaction to Pythagorean and Platonic fantasies he claimed that all our knowledge is derived from our senses. Experimental science hardly existed in his time; otherwise he might have said that our knowledge must have an experimental basis. He could not go as far as that, but he claimed that one must have some kind of sensual evidence; our words must correspond to tangible things. Of course, his atomism went far beyond the possibility of verification; it was not even a workable theory in the modern sense; Epicuros was a philosopher, not a man of science.

He was before everything else a moralist, trying to cut out a new way to virtue and happiness. Virtue implies freedom, and the freedom of the human spirit was so essential to him that in order to make it possible he was obliged to modify the basic atomic doctrine. The “swerving” of the atoms established chance and freedom within the most material objects; that element of chance and freedom increased as matter was more and more spiritualized and reached its climax in the soul of man.

Happiness should be attained by the practice of forbearance and abstinence, that is, in a negative manner. The master of the garden advised his disciples not to marry, not to beget children, not to attract public attention to themselves. Epicurean hedonism was ill–judged because its enemies represented it as a search for pleasure (chiefly sensual pleasures, for they themselves could conceive no other), whereas it was rather an attempt to free oneself from pain and trouble; the Epicureans tried to cast off fears, such as the fear of death or poverty, and to attain imperturbability(ataraxia); they tended to withdraw from life, and one might accuse them of defeatism; their general attitude lacked heroism, but it was not immoral. They might seem to be selfish, but we should not forget that they lived in dangerous times, when arbitrariness was more common than justice, when everything was more precarious than ever, and when it was wiser to hide one’s life than to invite jealousy and violence.¹⁵⁹⁰


The main feature of Epicuros’ philosophy of life, and the one that created for him and his teaching many irreconcilable enemies, was his struggle against superstition. We have already indicated many times that superstitions were rampant in the Greek world; the love of magic and miracles which had existed from the earliest times (witness the ancient mysteries, the myths, the healing shrines) was exacerbated by the miseries of war and by political and economic insecurity. The miseries that had grown during the civil wars had reached a new climax after Alexander’s death and the dissolution of his empire; their abundance and ubiquity strengthened the power of the guardians of the temples, of the priests and the soothsayers.

Epicuros was animated by at least one passion, the hatred of superstition. It has been observed that the passions which dominate a man’s activity are frequently the result of personal experience, especially such as have stamped a man’s soul during the most impressionable years of his life. Diogenes Laërtios reports ¹⁵⁹¹ that young Epicuros used “to go round with his mother Chairestrate to cottages and to read charms and assist his father in his school for a pitiful fee.” This conjures up the vision of a family struggling to keep the wolf from the door, the father being an underpaid schoolteacher, the mother helping out by acting as a kind of sham priestess or magician. If the precocious boy was thus obliged to witness his mother’s spiritual prostitution, one can easily conceive the growth of his disgust and of his lifelong anger. He had seen early what incantations meant for the insider; he had been obliged to help his mother deceive their neighbors. Could any experience be more awful?

At any rate, he had realized that poor men were simply the victims of circumstance, and he hated not so much the so–called popular superstitions, the fantastic folklore of illiterate and overcredulous people, as the pious lies disseminated by clerics and the “noble lies” so beautifully expressed by the Platonists. The distinction between popular and learned superstition is not always easy to make, because so many interests were vested in folklore that there was a tendency to assimilate it to the learned nonsense. The query whether superstitions are of popular origin or not is an academic and insoluble one. The ultraconservatives who believed that “religion is good for the people” knew well enough that any kind of superstition fostered other superstitions and hence was useful.¹⁵⁹²They were like sellers of whisky who would foster the love of alcohol (in general) rather than discourage it. Let the common people have all the superstitions they want, Plato and his disciples would have said, they are too stupid to contemplate the truth; they prefer lies.

That may be true, but the immense difference between Plato and Epicuros consists in this very fact, that the former was ready to exploit popular ignorance and credulity, while the latter did his best to eradicate them. For example, Epicuros did not hesitate to reject the whole of divination, and divination was big business. All the sects, except the Epicurean, accepted the reality of magic.

Epicuros was definitely anticlerical, but he was not antireligious. He claimed that gods exist; one must look for them, however, not in the stars but in the hearts of men. This is put beyond any doubt in his admirable letter to Menoiceus.

Those things which without ceasing I have declared unto thee, those do, and exercise thyself therein, holding them to be the elements of right life. First believe that God is a living being immortal and blessed, according to the notion of a god indicated by the common sense of mankind; and so believing, thou shalt not affirm of him aught that is foreign to his immortality or that agrees not with blessedness; but shalt believe about him whatever may uphold both his blessedness and his immortality. For verily there are gods, and the knowledge of them is manifest; but they are not such as the multitude believe, seeing that men do not steadfastly maintain the notions they form respecting them. Not the man who denies the gods worshiped by the multitude, but he who affirms of the gods what the multitude believes about them is truly impious. For the utterances of the multitude about the gods are not true preconceptions but false assumptions; hence it is that the greatest evils happen to the wicked and the greatest blessings happen to the good from the hand of the gods, seeing that they are always favorable to their own good qualities and take pleasure in men like unto themselves, but reject as alien whatever is not of their kind,.¹⁵⁹³

God’s existence is proved by the goodness in man (this is still, I believe, the best proof). Epicuros had no quarrel with pure religion, but he hated the religion fostered by Platonists and by aristocrats, the kind of religion that was encouraged by the “best people” for the good of the lower classes, and that was mixed not only with base superstitions, but with police power, spying, and persecutions. He rejected the idea of Providence (pronoia) — dear to the Stoa; he even rejected the idea of creation, or at any rate of continuous creation. God created the world, then withdrew from it and left it to its own evolution. The laws of nature are not to be disturbed by any kind of arbitrariness.

Epicuros was the first to proclaim the social danger of superstition and the primary need of fighting it. The people must not be lied to according to the Platonic method; they must be told the truth; if they are not sufficiently educated for that, then they must be educated; the truth will make them free, naught else.¹⁵⁹⁴

He represents liberalism and rationalism against Plato’s conservatism and deliberate obscurantism. His rationalism was not absolute, but limited. What rationalism is not?

Epicureanism is full of inconsistencies: its atomism is mitigated by atomic caprices, its materialism by the recognition of soul and gods; but the greatest inconsistency was its idea of a crusade against superstition, for that did not tally at all with the purpose of keeping free from pain and trouble. If the purpose had been to cause more trouble for themselves, Epicureans could not have discovered anything better than to fight against social lies and superstitions. Their choice of the most troublesome and dangerous cause to which to devote themselves proves their radical inconsistency and their moral greatness.

Epicuros was not antireligious. It is equally untrue that he was an enemy of science. He was more interested in ethics than in the pursuit of pure knowledge, yet he realized that our first duty is to know the truth, or rather that we must know the truth in order to do our duty. His opposition to what might have been called “pure science” was caused by the many falsifications of its purity; he despised logic because of the aberrations of the dialecticians; he distrusted mathematics because of Pythagorean numerology and Platonic geometry; above all, he rejected the astral theology that was debasing astronomy as well as religion. The tendency to confuse pure science with Platonic magic completely justified Epicuros in his rejection of both. His fight against superstition and irrationalism became unavoidably a fight against false sciences as well as against false religions.

This being said, it must be admitted that Epicuros had no scientific curiosity; there was in him no urge to discover the truth. This explains why Aristotle did not appeal to him; he would probably have regarded as idle all the stories collected by Aristotle in his zoölogic books. He would have said, What do we care about the breeding of fishes or the copulation of snails? Let us devote our attention to matters of human concern. We repeat: he was primarily a moralist, not a man of science.

He was a moralist and a politician concerned with the education of men, of all men and women, their education and their happiness. It is amusing to put together the epigrammatic descriptions of him made by two English philologists. Said Gilbert Murray, “The Epicureans were in a sense the Tolstoyans of antiquity,” and Benjamin Farrington, “The Epicureans were a sort of Society of Friends with a system of Natural Philosophy as its intellectual core.” ¹⁵⁹⁵ These two sayings taken grosso modo, as they should be taken, do not contradict each other. The second is fuller in that it recognized Epicuros’ scientific interest. Indeed, it would be paradoxical to deny that interest altogether in the man who passed the torch of atomism from Democritos to Lucretius.


The Epicurean school was fairly well established by the master himself. Epicuros had one of the essential qualities needed for that purpose; he was able to kindle the enthusiasm of his auditors and to ensure their loyalty. Already in Lampsacos he had managed to gather around himself many men of promise. The greatest of these early disciples was Metrodoros, who died many years before Epicuros, in 277, at the age of fifty–three. Other early disciples, such as Polyainos, Colotes, Idomeneus, have been mentioned. Polyainos was a mathematician who forsook mathematics after his Epicurean conversion. This has been used as a proof that Epicuros was antagonistic to science, but the proof is very insufficient. In the first place, Epicuros’ objections to Pythagorean arithmetic and to Platonic geometry could be fully justified on scientific grounds, and in the second place many men have passed from mathematics to philosophy or to religion.¹⁵⁹⁶

The continuity of the school was ensured by the master’s will bequeathing the leadership and the garden itself to Hermarchos of Mytilene. That will is so moving a document that we quote it verbatim:

On this wise I give and bequeath all my property to Amynomachos, son of Philocrates of Bate, and Timocrates, son of Demetrios of Potamos, to each severally according to the items of the deed of gift laid up in the M tr on, on condition that they shall place the garden and all that pertains to it at the disposal of Hermachos, son of Agemortos, of Mitylene, and the members of his society, and those whom Hermarchos may leave as his successors, to live and study in. And I entrust to my School in perpetuity the task of aiding Amynomachos and Timocrates and their heirs to preserve to the best of their power the common life in the garden in whatever way is best, and that these also (the heirs of the trustees) may help to maintain the garden in the same way as those to whom our successors in the School may bequeath it. And let Amynomachos and Timocrates permit Hermarchos and his fellow members to live in the house in Melite for the lifetime of Hermarchos.

And from the revenues made over by me to Amynomachos and Timocrates let them to the best of their power in consultation with Hermarchos make separate provision (1) for the funeral offerings to my father, mother, and brothers, and (2) for the customary celebration of my birthday on the tenth day of Gam li n in each year, and for the meeting of all my School held every month on the twentieth day to commemorate Metrodoros and myself according to the rules now in force. Let them also join in celebrating the day in Poseide n which commemorates my brothers, and likewise the day in Metageitni n which commemorates Polyainos, as I have done hitherto.¹⁵⁹⁷ And let Amynomachos and Timocrates take care of Epicuros, the son of Metrodoros, and of the son of Polyainos, so long as they study and live with Hermarchos. Let them likewise provide for the mainte. nance of Metrodoros’s daughter, so long as she is well ordered and obedient to Hermarchos; and, when she comes of age, give her in marriage to a husband selected by Hermarchos from among the members of the School; and out of the revenues accruing to me let Amynomachos and Timocrates in consultation with Hermarchos give to them as much as they think proper for their maintenance year by year.

Let them make Hermarchos trustee of the funds along with themselves, in order that everything may be done in concert with him, who has grown old with me in philosophy and is left at the head of the School. And when the girl comes of age, let Amynomachos and Timocrates pay for her dowry, taking from the property as much as circumstances allow, subject to the approval of Hermarchos. Let them provide for Nicanor as I have hitherto done, so that none of those members of the School who have rendered service to me in private life and have shown me kindness in every way and have chosen to grow old with me in the School should, so far as my means go, lack the necessaries of life.

All my books to be given to Hermarchos. And if anything should happen to Hermarchos before the children of Metrodoros grow up, Amynomachos and Timocrates shall give from the funds bequeathed by me, so far as possible, enough for their several needs, as long as they are well ordered. And let them provide for the rest according to my arrangements; that everything may be carried out, so far as it lies in their power. Of my slaves I manumit Mys, Nicias, Lycon, and I also give Phaidrion her liberty.¹⁵⁹⁸

Hermarchos succeeded Epicuros in 270; and he was succeeded himself by Polystratos, then by Dionysios, and he by Basileides. Apollodoros, known as the tyrant of the garden, who wrote over four hundred books, is also famous; and the two Ptolemaioi of Alexandria, the one black and the other white;¹⁵⁹⁹ and Zenon of Sidon, the pupil of Apollodoros, a voluminous author; and Demetrios, who was called the Laconian; and Diogenes of Tarsos, who compiled the select lectures; and Orion, and others whom the genuine Epicureans call Sophists.¹⁶⁰⁰

These names are mentioned to illustrate the continuity and vitality of the Epicurean school. Zenon of Sidon brings us already into the first century, for Cicero heard him in Athens; that must have been in 79 B.C., but Cicero had been initiated into Epicureanism before he went to Greece, for he had heard Phaidros (140–70) lecture in Rome before 88.¹⁶⁰¹ Another Epicurean of Cicero’s time was Philodemos of Gadara (in Palestine). The greatest of all was Lucretius (I–1 B.C.), of whom we need not say anything more at present. For Lucretius, Epicuros was almost a god (see the opening of De rerum natura¹⁶⁰²). This appreciation was not popular afterward, however, though it was shared by such exceptional persons as Lucian of Samosata and his friend Celsos,¹⁶⁰³ both of whom considered Epicuros a divine hero, a benefactor of mankind.

This appreciation could not be popular. The glory of Epicuros and later of Lucretius was their fight against superstition. Such a struggle has never brought and will never bring popularity to anybody. Even when superstitions were finally overcome, it was only because they were replaced by other superstitions, just as the weeds of our gardens when we pluck them out make room for other weeds. In spite of Epicurean efforts, the pagan superstitions did not decrease; the lack of political and economic stability tended, on the contrary, to increase them. The best of ancient religion was being gradually debased, corrupted; its poetry was lost, The philosophic (non–Epicurean!) elite replaced it with a new astrologic religion too difficult for the people to grasp and too abstract to warm their hearts. There remained only rituals, processions, pilgrimages, and superstitions of every kind. The religious vacuum was filled with fantastic ideas borrowed from Egypt and other parts of the Near East. The growth of superstition implied the growth of clerical bumptiousness and intolerance. The plain people were so deeply afflicted, their miseries were so many and so complex, that they abandoned rational efforts toward improvement and thought only of “salvation” — a kind of mystical salvation in another world.¹⁶⁰⁴

The Epicureans had against them also the philosophers of the other sects, chiefly the Stoics. For example, the astronomer Cleomedes ¹⁶⁰⁵ expressed his contempt of Epicuros for using a vulgar language such as was current “among the harlots, the women who celebrated the Ceres festivals, the beggars, etc.” The roots of Cleomedes’ anger were deeper; what irritated him was not so much Epicuros’ language as his rejection of the astrologic religion and his friendliness to the plain people.

The Epicurean hatred of superstition irritated everybody from the Stoics down to the soothsayers and to the demagogues who confused it with hatred of religion. That is an old trick which is still played today. A rationalist is generally accused of trying to pervert the young and to repudiate the gods. It was easy to exploit against Epicuros not only his anticlericalism but also his hedonism, which was shamelessly traduced. There is nothing strange in that. Could the Greeks of that time, whose minds were frustrated and demoralized by defeat and misery, be expected to give a welcome to those premature Quakers and to those Tolstoyans “avant la lettre”?

The opposition to Epicureanism was even greater among the religious communities, particularly the Jewish ones. Epicuros was a rebel and an infidel. It was relatively easy to represent his disciples as sordid materialists, lovers of pleasure, doubters, and liars. Both Philon ( I–1 ) and Joseph Flavius ( I–2 ) called him an atheist. “Epicurean” became an abusive term in Hebrew and has remained so to this day.¹⁶⁰⁶

All this concerns the historian of science directly, because it affected the fate of atomistic ideas. These, being mixed up with Epicurean philosophy, were considered themselves subversive. Atomism was driven underground; it was not killed (one can hardly destroy an idea) but continued a secret life and reemerged sometimes with strange associates.¹⁶⁰⁷ To the superstitious and unthinking people, atomism was simply a rebellion, a kind of satanic rebellion, as if the wicked atomists were trying to pulverize their very faith. In the Christian West it was not rehabilitated until the seventeenth century, first by Pierre Gassendi (1592–1655), later by Robert Boyle (1627–1691),¹⁶⁰⁸ and it was not presented in a form acceptable to men of science before the beginning of the nineteenth century, by John Dalton (1766–1844).

The further vicissitudes of scientific atomism would take us too far away from our field, but the reader may permit me to introduce the following remarks. It took almost the whole of the nineteenth century to establish atomism on a sound experimental basis and this required an immense amount of chemical investigation. When success was finally in sight, a number of men of science and philosophers who tried to reach a deeper understanding of things rejected atomism as a kind of illusion. Antiatomic views were published by such men as Ernst Mach (1838–1916),¹⁶⁰⁹ Pierre Duhem (1861–1916), even by a practical chemist like Wilhelm Ostwald (1853–1932); these men were fighting a rearguard action at the very time when atomism had ceased to be a hypothesis, when atoms could be counted and weighed, yet ceased to be atoms in the literal sense, for they were reduced to other elements incredibly smaller than themselves.

To return to Epicuros, we should repeat that the rejection of atomism by Ostwald and others was infinitely more scientific than his own blind acceptance of it. Epicuros’ discovery or rediscovery of atomism was not a scientific achievement. The historian of science will give him more credit for his general philosophy, and especially for his struggle against superstition. Science cannot flourish in the darkness; in order to make its growth possible one must be ready to fight magic and superstition at every step, and Epicuros did that or tried to do it.


The best way to end this chapter is to give an idea of the personality of Epicuros. It is good to be able to do that, especially when we remember that we know practically nothing of the personalities of most of the great men of science of antiquity. Most of them are like abstractions, but Epicuros is alive.

It is pleasant to see him walking with his disciples in the garden of Melita, talking and discussing with them. He found time to write considerably, but apparently he did not deliver set lectures. He was not a lecturer but a genuine teacher, deeply concerned with his students. What he founded was not simply a school but a brotherhood. Not only men, but also women and children gathered around him. Here is a letter from him to one of the children:

We have arrived at Lampsacos safe and sound, Pythocles and Hermarchos and Ctesippos and I, and there we found Themista and our other friends all well. I hope you too are well and your mamma, and that you are always obedient to papa and Matro, as you used to be. Let me tell you that the reason that I and all the rest of us love you is that you are always obedient to them.¹⁶¹⁰

This document is unique in ancient literature. Other letters of his include similar proofs of his kindliness to his parents, brothers, disciples, even to his slaves. Far from being the devil and debauchee that his enemies represented him to be, he was a simple and friendly creature, loving life and loving men. His manner of living was moderate, but he had realized the need of occasional feasts to break the monotony of days and accentuate their succession. The twentieth day of each month was set apart for a feast, which after his death became a memorial to himself and to Metrodoros. Unfortunately, we do not know how one was admitted into the Epicurean brotherhood. To be permitted to enter the garden and talk with the brothers and sisters must have been a blessing–a blessing without nonsense added to it, just love and reason.

The only unpleasant feature in Epicuros’ personality (and it displeases me very much) was his very ungrateful judgment of his teachers and of other philosophers. His own teacher, Nausiphanes, he called the jellyfish.¹⁶¹¹ He used other nicknames, equally nasty, to designate Heracleitos (the muddler), Democritos (nonsense), Aristotle (the profligate); Leucippos he refused to consider at all.

A very original man may deny his teachers because he does not realize how much he owes to them, or in his own ardor he may have forgotten them; he may be sincere, yet such a lack of recognition of others is a lack of grace. This puzzles me very much in Epicuros, for the disregard of others and the belittling of greatness in them is almost always a symptom of mediocrity. Yet Epicuros was a very great man. How could he be so blind to the greatness of his predecessors, and to the merit of his teachers?

Just as we know Epicuros’ life much better than the life of other Greek philosophers, we know better also the circumstances of his death. Of course, we know well enough the circumstances of Socrates’ death, because that death was a public execution, but about the other philosophers who died a natural death we are less well informed. As to Epicuros’ last illness and death, Diogenes Laërtios gives us definite information.

He died in the second year of the 127th Olympiad [= 271–270], in the archonship of Pytharatos, at the age of seventy–two; and Hermarchos the son of Agemortos, a Mitylenaean, took over the School. Epicuros died of renal calculus after an illness which lasted a fortnight: so Hermarchos tells us in his letters. Hermippos relates that he entered a bronze bath of lukewarm water and asked for unmixed wine, which he swallowed, and then, having bidden his friends remember his doctrines, breathed his last.

At the very end of his life Epicuros wrote a letter to his friend Idomeneus, which contains another account of his pains and a final, unforgettable, image of his kindness.

On this blissful day, which is also the last of my life, I write this to you. My continual sufferings from strangury and dysentery are so great that nothing could augment them; but over against them all I set gladness of mind at the remembrance of our past conversations. But I would have you, as becomes your lifelong attitude to me and to philosophy, watch over the children of Metrodoros.¹⁶¹²


The birth of Stoicism cannot be determined exactly, because we do not know when its founder, Zenon, was born. If it was as late as 336, then Stoicism could hardly be a product of this century, or it would belong to its very last years, but his birth has been placed as early as 348 and even 356. Zenon would then be an older contemporary of Epicuros. There is another reason, more fundamental, why Stoicism must be dealt with in this chapter: no matter when it matured, it is a fruit of Alexander’s age.


Zenon son of Mnaseas was born at Cition. It has been claimed that he was of Phoenician race, and that is not impossible, because Cition was or had been one of the Phoenician settlements in Cypros, probably the oldest in the island.¹⁶¹³ He was almost certainly subjected to Phoenician influences. He came to Athens at the age of 22 or 30, and his Athenian studies lasted over 20 years, presumably before the foundation of his own school; he was the head of that school for 58 years and died at 98 (or 72?).¹⁶¹⁴

The circumstances of his arrival at Athens deserve to be recorded. Says Diogenes Laërtios:

He was shipwrecked on a voyage from Phoenicia to Peiraieus with a cargo of purple. He went up into Athens and sat down in a bookseller’s shop, being then a man of thirty. As he went on reading the second book of Xenophon’s Memorabilia, he was so pleased that he inquired where men like Socrates were to be found. Crates passed by in the nick of time, so the bookseller pointed to him and said, “Follow yonder man.” From that day he became Crates’ pupil, showing in other respects a strong bent for philosophy, though with too much native modesty to assimilate Cynic shamelessness. Hence Crates, desirous of curing this defect in him, gave him a potful of lentil soup to carry through the Ceramicos; and when he saw that he was ashamed and tried to keep it out of sight, with a blow of his staff he broke the pot. As Zenon took to fight with the lentil soup flowing down his legs, “Why run away, my little Phoenician?” quoth Crates, “nothing terrible has befallen you.” ¹⁶¹⁵

This account is suggestive in many ways. It was because of an accident reducing him to poverty that Zenon became a philosopher, and he remarked later, “I made a prosperous voyage when I suffered shipwreck.” ¹⁶¹⁶ That is plausible enough. Second, Crates’ calling him “little Phoenician” (Phoinicidion) confirms the story of Zenon’s “Phoenician” origin. The main point is that Zenon was a disciple of Crates the Cynic. According to old traditions, Zenon’s teaching was connected with that of Socrates via Antisthenes, Diogenes, Crates and thus the early history of both Stoicism and Cynicism was confused. There can be no doubt, however, about the Cynic roots of Stoicism: Cynic traces can be detected in all the Stoic writings, even in the reminiscences of Marcus Aurelius.

Athens at the end of the fourth century had many things to offer to an ambitious man, as Zenon was, and though he attached himself mainly to Crates of Thebes (who lived until 285), he listened to other teachers at the Academy and elsewhere. Among his teachers were mentioned Xenocrates and Polemon of the Academy, Stilpon and Diodoros Cronos of the school of Megara.¹⁶¹⁷ Polemon teased him, saying, “You slip in by the garden door, you pilfer my ideas and give them a Phoenician appearance.”¹⁶¹⁸ What matters most, however, is not the philosophers whom he frequented in Athens, but the definite orientation of his own mind, and there can be no more doubt in his case than in that of Epicuros that his way of thinking was a reaction against the Academy and the Lyceum. There was an immense difference between Epicuros and him, a difference cutting down to their youth, in that while Epicuros was harking back to Democritos, Zenon was under the influence of Heracleitos; Democritos meant rationalism, while Heracleitos was an occultist. Those influences, going back to the fifth century, justify my inclusion of both Epicuros and Zenon in this volume. Both philosophies were hatched and born before the end of the fourth century.

Diogenes Laërtios relates many anecdotes concerning Zenon, and yet we do not see him as clearly as we see Epicuros. Some of the traits mentioned by Diogenes are striking, however. For example, we are told he had a wry neck, was lean, fairly tall, and swarthy, that he was fond of green figs and of sunbaths.¹⁶¹⁹ It is clear enough, however, that Zenon was popular in Athens, and that the Athenians loved him; witness the two decrees that they voted in his honor and his official burial in the Ceramicos.

The manner of his death was as follows. As he was leaving the school he tripped and fell, breaking a toe. Striking the ground with his fist, he quoted the line from the Niobe:

“I come, I come, why dost thou call for me?”

and died on the spot through holding his breath.¹⁶²⁰


Zenon began his teaching in Athens in a hall or portico which was called the painted hall or stoa (he stoa h poicil ) because it had been decorated about the middle of the fifth century by Polygnotos of Thasos, “the inventor of painting.” That hall had been used as a meeting place by poets, and it was probably open to all who chose to gather there. The use that was now made of it by Zenon caused his school to be called the Stoa, and his followers were called Stoics.

It is sometimes difficult to separate in the Stoic doctrines the elements that must be ascribed to the founder from those that were added later by Cleanthes and others.¹⁶²¹ My impression is that Zenon had already explained the essentials and that he was undoubtedly the creator of Stoic philosophy; in the course of centuries many changes were made in the doctrines but those changes were of little importance. The sayings of Marcus Aurelius can be generally illustrated with references taken from Zenon’s fragments.

Zenon divided philosophy into three main sections; physics, ethics, logic. Physics is the foundation of knowledge, logic the instrument, ethics the end.

His logic was derived from Antisthenes and Diodoros Cronos, that is, from Cynic and Megarian examples, yet it developed independently in various directions. For example, it led to a deeper grammatical consciousness and Greek grammar may be said to be largely a Stoic creation. The grammatical work of Zenon was continued by Chrysippos and completed by Diogenes the Babylonian and Crates of Mallos.¹⁶²² Other branches of logic were rhetoric and dialectic. The epistemology of the Stoics was also original. Knowledge, they held, is obtained from sense impressions, yet one should consider them prudently and not allow oneself to be carried away by “fantasies.” ¹⁶²³

Stoic physics was a combination of materialism and pantheism. The Stoics conceived the existence everywhere of forces or tensions, coextensive with matter; these tensions cause the flux and reflux of the universe. They were involved in the same contradictions or ambiguities as the Epicureans, for they admitted the existence of souls, but these souls were made of matter, a subtler kind of matter than that of the more tangible bodies; these souls were corporeal, not spiritual.

Their main interest was ethical. The Socratic idea that virtue is knowledge was developed by them; true goodness consists in living according to reason or to nature, but this implies a sufficient knowledge of nature (physics, theology). Their purely scientific knowledge was derived from Plato rather than from Aristotle; therefore it lacked clearness and was somewhat impure. For example, the Platonic parallelism between macrocosm and microcosm misled them into attaching much importance to divination. In this they followed old Greek traditions, but proved themselves very inferior to the Epicureans.

They rejected atomism, but the substance of their universe was not less material for that. Everything is made up of the four elements, in order of increasing subtleness: earth, water, air, and fire. God himself is material, and so is reason, the cosmic reason or the individual reason, which is like “a fragment detached from God.” ¹⁶²⁴ That reason is like a kind of hot breath. The souls are made of fire and at the end of a cosmic period a universal conflagration (ecpyr sis) will bring them all back into the divine fire, after which there may be a new creation (palingenesia).¹⁶²⁵

These are later sophistications, however, and we must not anticipate. The main point from the time of Zenon on is that the world is made up of matter and reason, yet matter and reason are but two aspects of the same reality. There is no reason without matter, no matter without reason. To put it otherwise, God is the single all pervading force, yet that force cannot be separated from the rest. Understand that if you can. In short, Stoicism was not less materialist than Epicureanism, but it was less rational.

Ethics are the climax and the eternal glory of Stoicism. The chief good is virtue, and virtue is simply to live according to nature or to reason (homologumen s physei z n). To be virtuous is the only good, not to be virtuous is the only evil; everything else, including poverty, disease, pain, death, is indifferent. The good man, who cannot be deprived of his virtue, is invulnerable. When he has properly withdrawn into himself, and has realized that most miseries are matters of opinion, his virtue gives him self–sufficiency (autarceia) and impassiveness, freedom from pain(ataraxia). This quietism was similar to the Epicurean, yet less passive, more virile (or it became so in Roman times). It is not enough for a man to bear and to forbear, he should be brave.

One consequence of Stoicism was the obligation of the wise man to obtain the available knowledge, for in order to live according to nature one must understand the cosmos. Unfortunately, most Stoics were satisfied with a very imperfect knowledge of nature. They lacked scientific curiosity. Stoicism lifted the heart, it did not sharpen the mind.

The Stoics accepted the idea of providence (pronoia) and thought the ways of providence could be discovered by means of divination (manteia) — two good examples of inconsistency, caused by their lack of scientific rigor and by the lack of vigor against traditional feelings.

The most often quoted of Zenon’s lost writings was his treatise on government (Politeia); according to Plutarch, it was an answer to Plato’s Republic. At any rate, the Stoics were interested in politics. In this respect, they were superior to the Epicureans, whose quietism led them to political aloofness; the Stoics felt that it was part of a man’s duty to assume his full share of the political burden. This explains the success of Stoicism in the frame of Roman law and administration.

The most original and pleasant feature of Stoic ethics and politics was their feeling of communion (coin nia) or participation, not only with the people of their own deme or country, but with those of the whole universe. Under the influence of the tremendous revolution caused by Alexander’s conquest of the world they escaped one of the oldest and strongest Greek traditions, the city–centered or provincial spirit of the Hellenic age; they were cosmopolitans, the first in history. Plutarch said that behind Zenon’s dream lay Alexander’s reality. That is not quite correct. Zenon was inspired not so much by Alexander’s empire (which was crumbling to pieces) as by Alexander’s conception of the unity of mankind (homonoia); he made of that individual conception a philosophic doctrine.¹⁶²⁶

The doctrine of homonoia (or concordia, consensus of mankind) was one of the sources of Roman law, of the jus gentium, the law of all nations, the law of nature.¹⁶²⁷ On the other hand, that idea might (and did) justify widespread prejudices. If all men believed in divination, was it not wiser, less dangerous, to share their belief? The political value of cosmopolitanism appealed to the Romans, but it could easily take a subversive appearance. The idea that all men are brethren might be considered a dangerous doctrine; that idea was strengthened later by the early Christians and was one of the causes of the persecutions that they suffered.

For us who look from a great distance, we realize that the Stoic ethics in general and its cosmopolitanism in particular constituted an immense progress, so immense that whatever of it was realized was destroyed or jeopardized over and over again. We appreciate this more vividly than ever because of the terrific experiences, calamities, and passions of our own time.¹⁶²⁸

Unfortunately, the Stoics had accepted too lightly all kinds of Pythagorean, Heracleitean, and Platonic fantasies; the benefits of Stoic morality were weakened, because it was combined wtih a poor cosmology and with the astral religion. In spite of the charity that informed it, it was too abstract, too scientific, to satisfy the uneducated people, who were the vast majority. Stoicism became a creed, but a creed without rituals and without wonders, which left the eyes dry and the heart cold; it could not compete with the ritualistic and miraculous religions which gave comfort in spite of endless misery and promised salvation in the midst of terror. Such as it was, Stoic ethics, combined with bad science and cold religion, was the last barrier of paganism against Christianity; we are not surprised at its failure, but rather at its relative popularity.


The whole of Stoic philosophy was already developed in Zenon’s time, and even before the end of the century, but we must tell briefly its later evolution, for one cannot appreciate the seed before one has observed its germination and watched the buds, the flowers, and the fruits.

Zenon was succeeded by his disciple Cleanthes of Assos (III–1 B.C.), who was head of the Stoa from 264 to 232.¹⁶²⁹ The following headmasters were Chrysippos of Soloi (III–2 B.C.), Zenon of Tarsos (c. 208–180), Diogenes of Seleucia (II–1 B.C.), who carried Stoicism to Rome in 156–155,¹⁶³⁰ Antipatros of Tarsos, Panaitios of Rhodes (II–2 B.C.). Panaitios was thus the seventh headmaster; he lived for a time with Polybios (II–1 B.C.) in Rome and completed the Stoicization of the Roman elite that Diogenes had begun. His main disciple, Poseidonios of Apamea (I–1 B.C.), settled in Rhodes, where Cicero attended his lectures in 78.

These men were headmasters (prostatai) and philosophers; they did not modify Stoic doctrine in any essential way but each of them continued investigations of his own. Cleanthes was a poet; Chrysippos was a logician and grammarian (his own contributions to Stoic doctrine were so considerable that it used to be said, “Without Chrysippos no Stoa”),¹⁶³¹ Diogenes the Babylonian was interested in grammar, archaeology, divination; Panaitios was chiefly a moralist; Poseidonios was a geographer and astronomer.

Note that all those early Stoics came from Western Asia: ¹⁶³² the founder, Zenon, came from Cypros, three others came from Cilicia ¹⁶³³ (Chrysippos of Soloi and Zenon and Antipatros of Tarsos), Poseidonios came from Apamea on the Orontes, and Diogenes from Seleucia on the Tigris; three others were closer to the Aegean Sea and the Greek world proper, Cleanthes of Assos (close to Lesbos), Ariston of Chios, and Panaitios of Rhodes. The Stoic teachings were born in Asia, found their form in Athens, and attained their maturity and popularity in Rome.

While Epicureanism was brought to a climax, and almost to an end, by Lucretius (I–1 B.C.), the development of Stoicism was slower and continued longer. Later Stoicism is represented by three giants, Seneca of Cordova (I–2), Epictetos (II–1), and Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (II–2).¹⁶³⁴ It is interesting to note that the great emperor created in 176 in Athens four chairs of philosophy, to represent four schools, the Stoic, the Epicurean, the Academic, and the Peripatetic. This illustrates the generosity and tolerance of Marcus Aurelius, and the survival of these four schools and of no others in Athens at the end of the second century.¹⁶³⁵ Thus did Plato, Aristotle, Epicuros, and Zenon live until the end of paganism; the triumph of Christianity drove them underground for centuries; yet they are still very much alive today.

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