Zeno and stoicism

Zeno and Stoicism

The legend says that Zeno lived a tough, merciless life. He wore ragged cloths, ate raw food, drank just water, had a plain personality, and ignored any rain, heat and pain. One may find this to be too savage, but just this would be proper and complete life for a Stoics. When he was 22, after a shipwreck he found himself in Athens, and stayed there. There, he gained knowledge being the student of a few philosophical schools and Epicureanism was among them. He studied together with Crates, a Cynic and worked out his own theories which contained the Cynic visions of the Socratic ideals of chastity, self-sufficiency and endurance. One day, Zeno was punishing a slave for theft. When the slave passed a remark that he has stolen because he was doomed to steal and that to steal was his fate, Zeno answered that to be punished this way was also the slave’s fate. This way he displayed a Stoic idea that there exist certain logicality between fate and just reward. It was sad when Zeno’s life suddenly came to an unexpected end when, if believe to an anecdote, he injured his toe just walking along the road. The wound alone was not dangerous at all, but believing that it was a sign Zeno just was holding his breath for some time and died. This case shows that sometimes natural events may express God’s will.

After his suicide Zeno was followed by Cleanthes from 264 to 232, who was incapable to defend Stoicism and dispute with it’s opponents when there was need. Later Cleanthes was succeeded by Chrysippus, who ran the school from 232 to 206 and successfully developed further Stoic movement ideas. Though there are no written Zeno’s works spared, thanks to the later Stoic writers we still have a general idea of Zeno’s writings.

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