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Title:Roman Stoicism
being lectures on the history of the Stoic philosophy with special reference to its development within the Roman Empire
Author: E. Vernon Arnold
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This book is the outcome of a course of lectures delivered by me in successive years to Latin Honours students in accordance with the regulations of the University of Wales. It is therefore primarily intended for the assistance of classical students; but it may perhaps appeal in its present form to a somewhat wider circle.

At the time that the book was begun the best systematic exposition of the Stoic philosophy available for English readers was to be found in Prof. E. Zeller’s Stoics Epicureans and Sceptics, translated by O. J. Reichel (Longmans, 1892). This work, admirable in detail, is nevertheless somewhat inadequate to the subject, which appeared to its learned author as a mere sequel to the much more important philosophical systems of Plato and Aristotle. Since its first appearance many qualified writers have been inclined to assign a higher rank to Stoicism, amongst whom L. Stein, A. Schmekel, and Hans von Arnim in the German-speaking countries, and A. C. Pearson, G. H. Rendall, and R. D. Hicks in our own, are perhaps most conspicuous.

The view taken in this book corresponds generally to that taken by the writers named. Shortly expressed, it regards Stoicism as the bridge between ancient and modern philosophical thought; a position which appears to be accepted by[viii] W. L. Davidson writing on behalf of students of modern philosophy. Mr Hicks and Mr Davidson have recently published works dealing with the Stoic philosophy as a whole; but as neither of these quite covers the ground marked out for this book, I believe that room will be found for a further presentation of the subject.

To the writers named and to many others, my obligations are great, and their extent is generally indicated in the Index. I owe a more intimate debt to Mr A. C. Pearson and Prof. Alfred Caldecott, who have given me ungrudgingly of their knowledge and counsel during the whole period of the preparation of this book.

The appearance of H. von Arnim’s ‘Stoicorum veterum fragmenta’ made available to me a mass of material from Greek sources, and has (I hope) made this book less imperfect on the side of Greek than it would otherwise have been. For the quotations in the notes from the Greek and the less-known Latin authors I have generally given references to von Arnim’s collections, which will doubtless be more accessible to most of my readers than the original writers. These references include those to the fragments of Zeno and Cleanthes, for which von Arnim is in the main indebted to the earlier work of Pearson.

So general a treatment of the subject as is here presented must necessarily leave room for correction and amplification in its various branches, and I trust that I am pointing out to younger students a field in which a rich harvest may yet be gleaned. To such students the appended Bibliography, though necessarily incomplete, may be of use as an introduction to the considerable literature which is available to them.

The concluding chapter makes its appeal not so much to classical students, as such, as to those who are interested in the problem of Christian origins; the further problems of the[ix] influence of Stoicism on modern literature and philosophy, though at first included in my programme, I have not ventured to enter upon. But I hope that at least I have been able to show that the interest of classical studies, even as regards Hellenistic philosophy, does not lie wholly in the past.

My sincere thanks are due to the Council of the University College of North Wales for granting me special assistance in my College duties during the Spring term of 1910, in order that I might give more time to this book; to the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press for undertaking its publication; and to Mr Clay and his expert staff for the admirable execution of the printing.


25 January 1911


In the text the accentuation of Greek words should be corrected as follows:

P. 117, l. 10, χρεῖαι. P. 239, l. 6, μέρων. P. 423, l. 16, ἀγάπη.

(Transcriber’s Note: These have been corrected.)

For the quotations in the notes from Greek writers, more precise references will usually be found in the sections named of von Arnim’s Stoicorum veterum fragmenta. In addition the following amplifications or corrections are needed:

P. 105, n. 44; Clem. Strom. ii 21, 129. P. 133, n. 38; Nem. nat. hom. vi 13. P. 142, n. 86; Sext. math. vii 184. P. 158, n. 17; Simp. Arist. cat. p. 269, 14 K; Cens. fr. 1, 1. P. 159, n. 20; Simp. Arist. cat. p. 350, 16 K. P. 160, n. 30; for τόνος the word λόγος is now read, making the quotation inapplicable. P. 161, n. 133; add the words τοὺς ἐν ἑαυτῷ λόγους. The reference is to Simpl. Arist. cat. p. 306, 23 K. P. 164, n. 45; Simp. Arist. cat. p. 66, 32 K; n. 47, ib. p. 165, 32 K. P. 166, n. 60; ib. p. 269, 14 K. P. 168, n. 75; ib. p. 165, 32 K. P. 173, n. 110; Galen const. art. med. p. 253 K; n. 111, meth. med. i 2 p. 16 K. P. 185, n. 79; for ἀπὸ read ὑπὸ. P. 187, n. 86; Sext. math. viii 271. P. 193, n. 130; Nemes. nat. hom. xxxviii 95. P. 196, n. 145; Galen de temp. p. 617 K. P. 222, n. 33; Corn. N. D. ii. P. 224, n. 47; Sext. math. vii 93. P. 251, n. 76; Galen plac. Hipp. et Plat. p. 242 K. P. 255, n. 86; for μῖγμα read μίγμα. P. 264, n. 139; to the quotation from Comm. in Luc. ix 6 add ‘et esse sic immortales ut non moriantur sed resolvantur.’ P. 298, n. 184; Alex. Aph. de fato 28, p. 199, 18 B.


I. The World-Religions 1
II. Heraclitus and Socrates 29
III. The Academy and the Porch 53
IV. The Preaching of Stoicism 78
V. The Stoic Sect in Rome 99
VI. Of Reason and Speech 128
VII. The Foundations of Physics 155
VIII. The Universe 175
IX. The Supreme Problems 198
X. Religion 216
XI. The Kingdom of the Soul 238
XII. The Law for Humanity 273
XIII. Daily Duties 301
XIV. Sin and Weakness 330
XV. Counsels of Perfection 357
XVI. Stoicism in Roman History and Literature 380
XVII. The Stoic Strain in Christianity 408
I. Ancient Writers and Philosophers 437
II. Modern Writers 445
General Index 451
Greek Index 466



Roman literature.

1. The present work treats of a subject of outstanding interest in the literature which is associated with the history of the Roman State, and which is expressed partly in Hellenistic Greek, partly in Latin. In the generations preceding our own, classical study has, to a large extent, attended to form rather than to matter, to expression rather than to content. To-day it is beginning to take a wider outlook. We are learning to look on literature as an unveiling of the human mind in its various stages of development, and as a key to the true meaning of history. The literature of Greece proper does not cease to attract us by its originality, charm, and variety; but the new interest may yet find its fullest satisfaction in Roman literature; for of all ancient peoples the Romans achieved most, and their achievements have been the most enduring. It was the Roman who joined the ends of the world by his roads and his bridges, poured into crowded towns unfailing supplies of corn and perennial streams of pure water, cleared the countryside of highwaymen, converted enemies into neighbours, created ideals of brotherhood under which the nations were united by common laws and unfettered marriage relations, and so shaped a new religion that if it shattered an empire it yet became the mother of many nations. We are the inheritors of Roman civilization; and if we have far surpassed it in scientific knowledge and material plenty, we are not equally confident that we possess better mental balance, or more complete social harmony. In this direction the problems of Roman life are the problems of Western life to-day; and the methods[2] by which they were approached in the Roman world deserve more than ever to be studied by us. Such a study, if it is to be in any true sense historical, must break through the convention by which ancient Greece and Rome have come to be treated as a world apart; it must seek its starting point in the distant past, and count that of chief importance which will bear fruit in the ages that follow.

Beliefs of the Romans.

2. Great achievements are born of strong convictions; and Roman statesmen, jurists, soldiers, and engineers did not learn to ‘scorn delights and live laborious days’ without some strong impulse from within. These inner convictions do not come to the surface everywhere in the Latin literature with which we are most familiar. The Roman orator or poet is generally content to express a conventional view of religion and morals, whilst he conceals his real thoughts in a spirit of reticence and almost of shame. Yet here and there every attentive reader will catch the accent of sincerity, sometimes in the less restrained conversation of the lower classes, sometimes in flights of poetic imagination, or again in instruction designed for the young. In this way we learn that the Romans of the last century of the republic and of the first century of the principate were profoundly concerned, not so much with questions connected with the safety of their empire or the justice of their form of government, as with problems in which all mankind has a common interest. What is truth, and how can it be ascertained? What is this universe in which we dwell, and by whom and how was it made? What are the beings called gods, and do they concern themselves with the affairs of men? What is man’s nature, his duty, and his destiny? These the Romans called the problems of philosophy, and they eagerly sought for definite and practical solutions to them[1]. Such solutions when embodied in theoretical systems we still call ‘philosophies’; but when such systems are developed in a practical form and claim the obedience of large bodies of men they become religions. Stoicism is in the first instance a philosophy, and amongst its many competitors that one which[3] appealed most successfully to the judgment of men who played a leading part in the Roman world; but as its acceptance becomes more general, it begins to assume all the features of a religion. All Latin literature is thickly strewn with allusions to Stoicism and the systems which were its rivals, and thus bears witness to the widespread interest which they excited.

Origin of Philosophy.

3. The Romans learnt philosophy from Greek teachers; and they were not free from a sense of shame in thus sitting at the feet of the children of a conquered race. But they acknowledged their obligations in a generous spirit; and from Roman literature an impression has arisen, which is still widespread, that Greece was the birthplace of philosophy, and that its triumphs must be placed to the credit of Hellenic culture. But to the Hellenes themselves philosophy equally appeared as a foreign fashion, assailing their national beliefs and dangerous to their established morality; and of its teachers many of the most distinguished were immigrants from Asia Minor. Thus Greece itself appears only as a halting-place in the movement of philosophy; and we are carried more and more to the East as we seek to discover its origin. Yet at the time with which we are concerned it had also spread to the extreme West. ‘The Magi,’ says Aristotle, ‘taught the Persians philosophy; the Chaldaeans taught it to the Babylonians and Assyrians; the Gymnosophists to the Indians; the Druids and Semnothei to the Gauls and Celts[2].’ It was a world-wide stirring of the human intellect, and we must attempt to outline its meaning more completely.

National and World-Religions.

4. Philosophy, in the sense in which Aristotle uses the term, appears to be a general name for a great change in man’s intellectual attitude towards his environment, corresponding to a definite era in the history of civilization. Before philosophy came nationalism, the habit of thinking according to clan and race; and nationalism remains on record for us in the numerous national religions in which each people does reverence to the deity which lives within its borders and goes forth to fight with its armies. Philosophy[4] is at once broader in its outlook and more intimate in its appeal. It breaks down the barriers of race, and includes the whole world in its survey; but on the other hand it justifies the individual in asserting his own thoughts and choosing his own way of life. Thus philosophy on its arrival appears in each particular country as a disintegrating force; it strikes at the roots of patriotism and piety, and challenges equally the authority of king and of priest. But everywhere in turn philosophy, as it gains ground, begins to construct a new patriotism and a new piety, and gradually takes concrete shape as a new religion. To us, as we look backwards to the past, the track of philosophy is recorded by a series of religions, all alike marked with the note of world-wide outlook, reverence for reason, and the sentiment of human sympathy. The era of philosophy is the era of the world-religions. It belongs to that millennium when from China to Ireland men of good will and bold spirit realized that they all looked up toward one sky, breathed one air, and travelled on one all-encircling sea; when they dreamed that before long all men should be united in one kingdom, converse in one language, and obey the one unchanging law of reason.

Spread of the World-Religions.

5. The general importance and direction of this movement will best be seen if we select for consideration a certain number of the world-religions in which it was from time to time embodied. Aristotle has already called our attention to the ‘philosophies’ of the Chaldaeans, the Persians, and the Indians; amongst these last Buddhism at least was a movement which had shaken off limitations of race and class. To these he has added the Druids, whom we may well keep in mind if only because they are representatives of Western Europe. Stoicism best represents the part played by the Greco-Roman world, and Judaism and Christianity come under consideration as forces with which Stoicism in the course of its history came into close contact. The Greeks little realized that they were being carried along in so mighty a stream. Regarding themselves as isolated and elevated, the sole pioneers of civilization in a ‘barbarian’ world, the beliefs of neighbouring peoples seemed to them beneath their notice. To this prejudice they clung in spite[5] of the protests of their own men of learning[3]; the Romans inherited it from them; and though the Europe of the Middle Ages and of to-day professes an Oriental faith, its religious survey is still limited and its critical power impaired by the same assumption of superior wisdom. Our information is however wider than that of the ancient world, and our sympathies are beginning to be quickened; and we are thus in a position to trace generally the history of these seven religions. In this work we shall use, as far as possible, the classical authorities, supplementing them (where deficient) from other sources.


6. The oldest of these philosophical or religious systems is that of the Chaldaeans, as the Romans termed a pastoral, star-gazing folk[4] presumably identical with the people which, in or about the year 2800 B.C.[5], mapped out the constellations as we now know them, traced the orbits of the planets[6], and predicted their future movements. This work was not carried out entirely in the spirit of modern science; it was further stimulated by the belief that the skies displayed a written message to mankind. But the nature of that message, of which fragments are possibly embodied in the names of the constellations, was not preserved to the Romans by any tradition. Two principles seem to have survived, those of the inexorable tie between cause and effect called ‘fate[7],’ and of the interdependence of events in heaven and on earth[8]. Hence arose the hope of prophetic insight into the future; and the people of Babylon, under Chaldaean influence, are said to have spent[6] four hundred and seventy years in collecting observations of the history of boys born under particular combinations of the heavenly bodies[9]. We are not acquainted with the results of these observations; but undoubtedly they established a profession of astrologers, whose craft it was to observe the position of sun, moon and stars at a man’s birth or at some other critical hour, and thence to deduce his future character or career. These wanderers, called by the Romans ‘Chaldaei’ or ‘Mathematici,’ spread over all Europe, and founded a lucrative trade on men’s fears and ambitions. Philosophers studied their methods, and did not always entirely deny their validity[10]. In society the astrologer is a common figure[11]; he found his way to the chambers of princes[12], and was regularly consulted by conspirators. The dramatic scene in Walter Scott’s Betrothed is as true in character to Roman times as to the Middle Ages. Roman literature is full of allusions to the horoscope[13]. But whether we attribute these practices to fraud or to self-deception, there is every reason to believe that they only form a diseased outgrowth from a system which at an earlier time was of much wider import.


7. The popular expression ‘magic’ still recalls to us the system of which the Magi of Persia were the professed exponents, and of which the Romans had a knowledge which is to a large extent confirmed from other sources. This system we shall here call ‘Persism,’ in order to[7] free ourselves of the popular associations still connected with such terms as Magism, Parsee-ism, and so forth; meaning by ‘Persism’ the teaching of Zarathustra (the Latin Zoroastres) as it affected the Greek and Latin world. Persism has its roots in the older nationalism, inasmuch as its deity is one who takes sides with his believer and brings him victory in war; but on the other hand it grows into a world-religion because that which begins as a conflict between races gradually changes into a struggle between right and wrong. It is based also on the Chaldaean system, in so far as it looks up to the heaven as the object of human reverence and to the sun, moon and planets as at least the symbols of human destiny; but here again the outlook is transformed, for in the place of impersonal and inexorable forces we find a company of celestial beings, intimately concerned in the affairs of men, and engaged in an ardent struggle for the victory of the better side. The meaning of Persism and its immense influence on the Greco-Roman world are still so little realized that it is necessary here to deal with the subject with some fulness.


8. The Greeks and Romans refer to the teachings of Zarathustra as of immemorial antiquity[14]; whilst on the other hand the direct Persian tradition (existing in a written form from about the year 800 A.D.) ascribes them to a date 258 years before the era of Alexander’s invasion of Persia[15]. The best modern authorities incline to the Persian view, thus giving the date of about 600 B.C. to Zarathustra, and making him roughly a contemporary of the Buddha and Confucius[16]. On the other hand considerations, partly of the general history of religion, partly of the linguistic and metrical character of such fragments of Zarathustra’s writings as still remain, indicate a date earlier than this by many hundred years[17]. Zarathustra belonged to the tribe of the Magi, who maintained religious practices of which the[8] nature can only be inferred from such of them as survived the prophet’s reforms[18]; in their general character they cannot have differed widely from those recorded in the Rigveda. In the midst of this system Zarathustra came forward as a reformer. He was deeply learned in the doctrines of the Chaldaeans[19], and was an ardent student of astronomy[20]. In a period of solitary contemplation in the desert[21], it was revealed to him that a great and wise being, named Ahura Mazdā, was the creator and ruler of heaven and earth[22]. Upon him attend Angels who do him service; whilst the spirit of Mischief and his attendants ceaselessly work to oppose his purposes. Ahura is the light, his enemy is the darkness[23]. The struggle between them is that between right and wrong, and in it every man must take one or the other side. His soul will survive what men call death, and receive an everlasting reward according to his deeds. After quitting the mortal body, the soul will pass over the Bridge of Judgment, and will there be turned aside to the right or to the left; if it has been virtuous, to enter Paradise, but if vicious, the House of Falsehood. Full of this doctrine, Zarathustra enters the court of King Vishtāspa, and converts him and his court. The monarch in turn sets out to convert the unbelieving world by the sword, and the War of Religion begins.

Spread of Persism.

9. We cannot trace the long history of the War of Religion through its whole course, but in the end we find that the Religion has welded together the great kingdom of Persia, and its warlike zeal is directed towards establishing throughout the world the worship of the ‘God of heaven,’ and the destruction of all images, whether in the shape[9] of men or of beasts, as dishonouring to the divine nature. In the sixth century B.C. Babylon opposed the Religion in the east, and Lydia in the west; both fell before Cyrus the Great. The fall of Babylon set free the Jews, who accepted the king’s commission to establish the Religion in Jerusalem[24], and (at a rather later date) in Egypt[25]; on the other hand that of Lydia exposed the Hellenes, a people devoted to idol-worship, to the fury of the image-breakers[26]. The battles of Marathon and Salamis checked the warlike advance of Persism, and the victories of Alexander suppressed its outward observance and destroyed its literature and its priesthood. But in this period of apparent depression some at least of its doctrines were winning still wider acceptance than before.

Persism invades Greece.

10. The departure of the Persians from Europe was the signal for an outburst of enthusiasm in Greece for the old gods and their worship with the aid of images. Yet, unfavourable as the time might seem, a monotheistic sentiment developed apace in Hellas, which we shall follow more closely in the next chapter[27]. Even Herodotus, writing as a fair-minded historian, no longer regards the Persians as impious, but realizes that they are actuated by conviction[28].[10] Socrates was an outspoken defender of all the main articles of the Religion, to the horror of nationalists like Aristophanes, who not unjustly accused him of corrupting the loyalty of the youth of Athens to the institutions of their mother city. Xenophon, the most intimate of his disciples, translated this bias into action, and joined with the 10,000 Greeks in a vain effort to re-establish the strength of Persia: he did not even hesitate to engage in war against his native land. To him Cyrus the Persian was a greater hero than any Homeric warrior or Greek sage; and from Cyrus he drew the belief in the immortality of the soul which from this time on is one of the chief subjects of philosophic speculation.

Persism welcomed in Rome.

11. The Romans had not the same national motives as the Greeks to feel an antipathy to Persism. For the doctrine of monotheism they had probably been prepared by their Etruscan sovereigns, and the temple of Capitoline Jove kept before their eyes a symbol of this sentiment. But in the Roman period Persian sovereignty had receded to the far distance, and the doctrines of Persism only reached Rome through the Greek language and in Greek form. Thus of the doctrines of the Evil Spirit, the war between Good and Evil, and the future punishment of the wicked, only faint echoes ever reached the Roman ear. On the other hand the doctrines of the divine government of the world and of the immortality of the soul made a deep impression; and Cicero in a well-known passage repeats and amplifies the account Xenophon gives in his Cyropaedia of the dying words of Cyrus, which is doubtless to some extent coloured by recollections of the death of Socrates:

‘We read in Xenophon that Cyrus the elder on his death-bed spoke as follows—“Do not think, my very dear children, that when I quit you I shall no longer be in existence. So long as I was with you, you never saw my soul, but you realized from my actions that it dwelt in this my body. Believe then that it will still exist, even if you see nothing of it. Honours would not continue to be paid to great men after death, did not their souls assist us to maintain their memory in freshness. I have never been able to persuade myself that souls live whilst they are enclosed in mortal bodies,[11] and die when they issue from them; nor that the soul becomes dull at the moment it leaves this dull body; I believe that when it has freed itself from all contact with the body and has begun to exist in purity and perfection, then it becomes wise. Further, when the framework of humanity is broken up in death, we see clearly whither each of its parts speeds away, for all go to the elements from which they have sprung; the soul alone is not seen by us either whilst it is with us or when it departs. Lastly nothing resembles death so closely as sleep. But men’s souls, whilst they themselves sleep, most clearly reveal their divine nature; for then, being set free from their prison house, they often foresee things to come. From this we may gather what their properties will be, when they have utterly freed themselves from the fetters of the body. If then this is so, do reverence to me as a god; but if the soul is destined to perish with the body, still do reverence to the gods, who guard and rule all this beauteous world, and while so doing keep up the memory of me in loyal and unalterable affection.” So spoke Cyrus on his death-bed[29].’

The manifold deity.

12. The Persian doctrine of the ‘Angels’ seems to have been very little understood either in Greece or at Rome, but, as we shall see in the course of this book, it profoundly influenced the course of religious history. The ‘Angels’ or good Spirits of Persism are, from one point of view, identical with the Creator himself, forms under which he manifests himself to men. Their names are all those of abstractions: the Good Mind, the Best Reason, the Desired Kingdom, Holy Humility, Salvation, and Immortality[30]. On the other hand, they gradually assume to the worshipper who contemplates them the appearance of separate personalities, dwelling, like the Creator himself, in an atmosphere of heavenly Glory. Thus a system which is in principle strictly monotheistic gradually developes into one in which the deity is sevenfold, as in the following hymn from the later part of the Avesta:

‘We praise the heavenly Glory.
The mighty, the god-given,
The praiseworthy, the life-giving,
Healing, strengthening, watching
High above the other creatures.
The Glory that belongs to the Immortal Spirits,
The rulers, that act by a look alone,
The lofty, all-powerful ones,
The strong servants of the All-wise,
That live for ever, and work justice.
All seven have the same Thought,
All seven have the same Word,
All seven have the same Deed.
One Thought, one Word, one Deed, one Father and Master
The All-wise, the Creator[31].’

Of these ‘Angels’ one was destined to play a considerable part in several of the world-religions; namely that which the Persians called the ‘Best Reason,’ and which the Greeks knew as Wisdom (σοφία) or the Word (λόγος). Sometimes an aspect of the Deity, sometimes an emanation from him, and then again a distinguishable personality, this figure is again and again presented to our consideration. The personification of abstractions appealed with special force to the Romans, for from the earliest periods of their history they had raised temples to Faith (fides), Concord (concordia), and other deified virtues; and its character can perhaps best be appreciated by reference to the personification of Light in Christian hymnology, both ancient and modern:

‘Hail, gladdening Light, of his pure glory poured
Who is the immortal Father, heavenly, blest[32]!’
‘Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom
Lead thou me on[33].’
Sanctity of the elements.

13. Amongst the subsidiary, but still important, doctrines of Persism, is that of the sanctity of the four elements. Earth, air, fire and water are alike holy. Hence the dead must not be buried, for that would be to defile the earth; nor burned, for that would be to defile fire[34]; nor may any impurity be thrown into the water. This respect for the[13] elements often appeared to strangers as worship of them[35]. Between the elements they sometimes discriminated, considering earth and water as more akin to darkness and the evil spirit, but fire and air to light and the good spirit[36]. The element of fire they held in special reverence, so that at all times they have been called fire-worshippers[37]. More careful observers have always recognised them as monotheists, distinguished by a certain rapturous language in their description of the deity which they refused to picture in any concrete shape[38]. They were also zealous that their teaching should find its expression in a healthy social and political life[39]. In the education of the young they laid a special stress on speaking the truth[40].

Alexander in the East.

14. ‘The Gymnosophists taught philosophy to the people of India[41].’ Who are the teachers thus indicated? An answer may be found, though of a later date, in Plutarch’s ‘Life of Alexander,’ where he describes the meeting of Alexander with some eminent gymnosophists, who had stirred up opposition to his rule:—

‘[Alexander] captured ten of the Indian philosophers called Gymnosophistae[42]; who had been instrumental in causing Sabbas to revolt, and had done much mischief to the Macedonians. These men are renowned for their short, pithy answers, and Alexander put difficult questions to all of them, telling them that he would first put to death the man who answered him worst, and so the rest in order.


The first was asked whether he thought the living or the dead to be the more numerous. He answered “The living, for the dead are not.”

The second was asked, “Which breeds the largest animals, the sea or the land?” He answered “The land, for the sea is only a part of it.”

The third was asked, “Which is the cleverest of beasts?” He answered “That which man has not yet discovered.”

The fourth was asked why he made Sabbas rebel. He answered “Because I wished him either to live or to die with honour.”

The fifth was asked, which he thought was first, the day or the night. He answered “The day was first, by one day.” As he saw that the king was surprised by this answer, he added “Impossible questions require impossible answers.”

Alexander now asked the sixth how a man could make himself most beloved. He answered “By being very powerful, and yet not feared by his subjects.”

Of the remaining three, the first was asked how a man could become a god. He answered “By doing that which it is impossible for a man to do.”

The next was asked which was the stronger, life or death. He answered “Life, because it endures such terrible suffering.”

The last, being asked how long it was honourable for a man to live, answered “As long as he thinks it better for him to live than to die.”

The king loaded them with presents, and dismissed them[43].’

Were the Gymnosophists Buddhists?

15. In these ‘gymnosophists’ it is easy to recognise a type familiar to Indian antiquity. These men, who have almost dispensed with clothing and know nothing of the luxuries or even the conveniences of life, are nevertheless influential leaders of the people. They, like the Persians, have broken away from the old religions; they talk lightly of the gods, and do not guide their actions by any decrees supposed divine. The sight of human sorrow fills them with sympathy for the ills of life, and makes them doubt whether death is not the better choice. Their ethical standard is high, and includes both courage and gentleness. That they are Buddhist monks is probable enough, but not certain, because India contained at this time many sects professing similar principles. But the teaching of Gautama, the Buddha or ‘enlightened,’ represents to us in the most definite form the nature of this propaganda. It implies a revolt against national rivalries, ritualist observances, and polytheistic beliefs; it is severely[15] practical, and inculcates obedience to reason and universal benevolence; and it is spread from East to West by devoted bands of ascetic missionaries.

Buddhist teaching.

16. The fundamental teachings of Buddhism appear clearly in the traditional account of the Sermon of Benares:

This is the holy truth of Sorrow; birth is Sorrow, age is Sorrow, disease is Sorrow, death is Sorrow; to be joined with the unloved is Sorrow, to be parted from the loved is Sorrow; to lose one’s desire is Sorrow; shortly, the five-fold clinging to existence is Sorrow.

‘This is the holy truth of the Origin of Sorrow; it is the thirst to be, leading from birth to birth, finding its pleasure here and there; the thirst for pleasure, the thirst to be, the thirst to be prosperous.

This is the holy truth of the Removing of Sorrow; the removal of the thirst by destroying desire, by letting it go, by cutting oneself off from it, separating from it, giving it no place.

This is the holy truth of the Path to the Removing of Sorrow; it is the holy Path of eight branches, which is called Right Belief, Right Aspiration, Right Word, Right Act, Right Life, Right Effort, Right Meditation, Right Annihilation of Self[44].’

Specially characteristic of Buddhism is that gentleness of temper, instinctively opposed to all anger and cruelty, which no provocation can turn aside. We read in the Dhammapada:

‘Hatred does not cease by hatred at any time; hatred ceases by love; this is an old rule. Let a man overcome anger by love, let him overcome evil by good; let him overcome the greedy by liberality, the liar by truth[45].’

Buddhists and Cynics.

17. The doctrines of Buddhism were not inculcated in India alone. From the first it was a missionary religion; and its emissaries must often have appeared in the Hellenistic world, promising ‘to seekers after God eternal communion with his very essence, to the weary pessimist eternal forgetfulness[46].’ From contemporary Indian inscriptions we learn of missionaries sent out by Açoka, the first great Buddhist king of India, ‘with healing herbs and yet[16] more healing doctrine’[47] to Ptolemy II king of Egypt, Antiochus of Syria, and others, before the year 250 B.C.; and this mission can have been but one out of many. It thus appears very remarkable that we have no record of Buddhist communities established in the Greco-Roman world. But if the name of Gautama remained unknown to the West, and his community had no formal adherents, the manner of life of his apostles did not lack imitators. In the Cynic preacher the Buddhist monk reappears. In Greek literature he is usually an object of ridicule; his uncouth appearance, his pitiable poverty, and his unconventional speech give constant opportunity for the wit of his critics. But the Cynics carried with them not only the outward garb of the Buddhist monks, but also their lofty ethical standard, their keen sympathy with human troubles, and their indifference to purely speculative problems[48]. In spite of the contempt heaped upon them (or perhaps in consequence of it) they gradually won respect and admiration as the sincere friends and helpers of the poor. Thus Buddhism at its best is pictured for us in the sketches drawn by Epictetus of Diogenes and the Cynic preachers of his own day, of which the following are examples:

‘Did Diogenes love nobody, who was so kind and so much a lover of all that for mankind in general he willingly undertook so much labour and bodily suffering? He did love mankind, but how? As became a minister of God, at the same time caring for men, and being also subject to God. For this reason all the earth was his country, and not one particular place; and when he was taken prisoner he did not regret Athens nor his associates and friends there, but even he became familiar with the pirates and tried to improve them; and being sold afterwards he lived in Corinth as before at Athens. Thus is freedom acquired[49].’

‘And how is it possible that a man who has nothing, who is naked, houseless, without a hearth, squalid, without a slave, without a city, can pass a life that flows easily? See, God has sent you a man to shew you it is possible. Look at me, who am without a city, without a house, without possessions, without a slave; I sleep on the ground; I have no wife, no children, no praetorium, but only the earth and heavens, and one poor cloak. And what do I want? Am I not without sorrow? Am I not without fear? Am I not free? When did any of you see me failing in the object of[17] my desire, or ever falling into that which I would avoid? did I ever blame God or man? did I ever accuse any man? did any of you ever see me with sorrowful countenance?

This is the language of the Cynics, this their character, this their purpose[50].’

Except that a simple form of theism has replaced the Buddhist atheism, there is hardly a word here that we might not expect from a Buddhist monk.


18. The Stoic philosophy was founded by Zeno of Citium (350-260 B.C.). Although he lived and taught at Athens, his youth was spent in a city that was half Phoenician, and many of his most distinguished followers had a like association with the Eastern world. The system deals with all the great themes touched upon by Chaldaism, Persism, and Buddhism. Like the first, it insists that there exists an unchanging Destiny, according to which events throughout the universe are predetermined from all eternity. Like the second, it sets up as claiming the worship and allegiance of men a Supreme Deity, who governs the world with boundless power and benevolent will, and is manifested to men as the Logos or ‘divine Word.’ In its interpretation of the physical universe it accepts as a first principle a living and creative fire, ultimately identical with the deity, and containing the germs of the whole creation. It sees in the will of man an independent and divine power, subject to no compulsion from without, but attaining its highest and best by willing submission to the Supreme Being. In its practical ethics, though it does not advocate the suppression of all desires, it so far agrees with Buddhism as to hold that happiness is only found in the subordination of individual claims to the voice of universal reason. Finally, its teachers are actively engaged in propagating its doctrines and guiding its disciples. Stoicism has, in short, the inward and outward characteristics of the other great movements we have described, and may claim without presumption to be reckoned amongst the world-religions[51].


Comprehensiveness of the Stoic view.

19. If however we reckon Stoicism amongst the world-religions, we must not forget that of all of them it is the most philosophical, and this in a double sense. In the first place the founders of Stoicism are conscious of the problems to which preceding schools of thought have endeavoured to find answers, and attempt to reconcile or at any rate to bring into relation the answers which their predecessors have found. Secondly they are greatly occupied with intellectual problems, and clearness of thought is to them almost equally important with rightness of thought. The theory of Fate which we have attributed to the Chaldaeans is to the plain man irreconcileable with the doctrine of the government of the world by a Supreme Deity; yet the Stoics hold both dogmas. The theory of the freedom of the human will is a limitation equally of the dominion of Fate and of that of the Deity: the Stoics maintain the freedom of the human will and refuse to admit the limitation of either power. The Persians maintained that the power of the principle of Good was balanced by that of the principle of Evil; and from this they drew what seemed to be the legitimate conclusion that man may choose to obey the one or the other, to do good or to do evil. The Stoics omitted the principle of Evil altogether from their scheme, and yet maintained the theory of the moral choice. To understand the Stoic system it is necessary to know exactly in what balance its different elements were maintained, and to avoid identifying it with other systems, ancient or modern, which are more sharply cut. Thus when it is commonly asserted that Stoicism on its religious side is Pantheism, the very brevity of this summary must create suspicion. Certainly the Stoics frequently speak of the universe as divine; but they hold with equal firmness the doctrines that the universe is governed by Providence, and that human perversity may thwart the divine purpose, both being doctrines which in ancient as in modern times are associated with Theism, and held to be inconsistent with pantheistic views.

God and the ‘Word.’

20. A similar difficulty confronts us when we ask whether the deity of the Stoics is to be considered as personal. All the terms commonly used in association[19] with a personal deity are adopted by the Stoics: their god is Lord and Father. But then they use with equal freedom terms commonly associated with materialism: for the Supreme Being is to them body or stuff, a primitive fire which converts itself by natural laws into every form of being. For this reason the Stoics are commonly called materialists, and yet the main body of their teaching is contrary to that usually associated with materialism[52]. Further, beside the personal and the material conceptions of the Deity, they adopted and developed a conception which exercised an extraordinary influence over other systems, when they attributed the exercise of all the powers of deity to the divine Word, which from one point of view is the deity himself, and from another is something which emanates from him and is in some way distinct. Thus the term ‘God,’ which to children and child-like religions appears so simple, is in the Stoic system extraordinarily complex; and its full content cannot be grasped without a willingness to revise the meaning of many conceptions which seem firmly established, such as those of personality, material, and quality. If we are to suppose that the Stoic conception of the Word arose ultimately from similar conceptions in Hebraism or Persism, by which the voice of a personal God attained to a quasi-independent personality, we must allow that the Stoics made use of this term with a boldness and consistency which from the time of their appearance brought it into the forefront of religious and metaphysical controversy. Through the Stoics the doctrine of the Word passed into the systems of Judaism and Christianity, to perform in each the like service by reconciling doctrines apparently contradictory. Of all the systems we may perhaps say that Stoicism makes the fewest new assertions or negations, but introduces the most numerous interpretations.

Influence of Stoicism.

21. We have comparatively little means of judging of the influence of Stoicism in the world of Asia Minor, but incidentally we may infer that it was very considerable. In Athens the moral earnestness of its teachers found little response in public feeling, whilst it laid the exponents of[20] its tenets open to many a sharp thrust from keen critics whose constructive powers were after all inferior. In Rome itself Stoicism took root rapidly. The brilliant circle that gathered round Scipio Africanus the younger was imbued with its ideals; Cato, the leading republican of the first century B.C., was a living representative of its principles; and Cicero and Brutus, with many others less known to fame, were greatly influenced by it. In the first century of the principate Stoicism imparted a halo of heroism to a political and social opposition which otherwise would evoke little sympathy[53]; in the second century A.D. its influence was thrown on the side of the government; the civilized world was ruled under its flag, and its principles were embodied in successive codes of law which are not yet extinct. Its direct supremacy was not long-lived; for at the very time when a Stoic philosopher sits in the seat of the Caesars its followers seem to be losing their hold on its most important doctrines. It came into sharp conflict with Christianity on matters of outward observance; but in the cores of the two systems there was much likeness[54], and from Stoic homes were drawn the most intelligent advocates of the newer faith.


22. By Judaism we mean here the way of thinking which was prevalent in the Jewish world from the date of the return from Babylon to that of the destruction of Jerusalem. Judaism was of course by no means restricted to the soil of Palestine; it was carried by the diffusion of the Jewish race to all the coasts of the Mediterranean; besides its national centre at Jerusalem, it included a great centre of learning at Alexandria, and its branches, as we have seen[55], extended to the south of Egypt. The chief external impulse which affected it was the spread of Persism. The two systems agreed[21] in their belief in a God of heaven, and in their dislike to idol-worship; and it can be no matter of wonder if one party at least among the Jews readily accepted the more strictly Persian doctrines of the ministry of angels, the struggle between good and evil, the immortality of the soul, and the reward after death, as well as such observances as the washing of hands[56]. Strong Persian influence has been traced in the book of Daniel[57], and as Jewish speculation developed at Alexandria, it took up the use of the Greek language, and so came into touch with the influences that were moulding thought throughout Asia Minor[58]. The most interesting and elevated production of Alexandrine Judaism is the book known as the Wisdom of Solomon, probably composed in the first century B.C.[59]

‘The Wisdom of Solomon.’

23. The author of this book, whilst himself a firm adherent of monotheism, shews a not altogether intolerant appreciation of those systems in which either the heavenly bodies or the elements seem to occupy the most important place:—

For verily all men by nature were but vain who had no perception of God,
And from the good things that are seen they gained not power to know him that is,
Neither by giving heed to the works did they recognise the artificer;
But either fire, or wind, or swift air,
Or circling stars, or raging water, or the luminaries of heaven,
They thought to be gods that rule the world.
And if it was through delight in their beauty that they took them to be the gods,
Let them know how much better than these is their sovereign Lord:
For the first author of beauty created them:
But if it was through astonishment at their power and influence,
Let them understand from them how much more powerful is he that formed them:
For from the greatness of the beauty even of created things
In like proportion does man form the image of their first maker.
But yet for these men there is but small blame,
For they too peradventure do but go astray
While they are seeking God and desiring to find him.
Wisdom of Solomon, xiii 1-6.

The same author rises to still greater heights when he personifies Wisdom or Philosophy as a Spirit attendant upon, and almost identified with the deity. Here his language resembles that of the Avestic hymns, describing the angels attendant upon Ahura Mazdā[60]:—

For there is in Wisdom a spirit quick of understanding, holy,
Alone in kind, manifold,
Subtil, freely moving,
Clear in utterance, unpolluted,
Distinct, unharmed,
Loving what is good, keen, unhindered,
Beneficent, loving toward man,
Stedfast, sure, free from care.
All-powerful, all-surveying,
And penetrating through all spirits
That are quick of understanding, pure, most subtil:
For wisdom is more mobile than any motion:
Yea, she pervadeth and penetrateth all things by reason of her pureness.
For she is a breath of the power of God,
And a clear effluence of the glory of the Almighty:
Therefore can nothing defiled find entrance into her.
For she is an effulgence from everlasting light,
And an unspotted mirror of the working of God,
And an image of his goodness.
And she, being one, hath power to do all things:
And remaining in herself, reneweth all things,
And from generation to generation passing into holy souls
She maketh men friends of God, and prophets;
For she is fairer than the sun,
And above all the constellations of the stars.
Wisdom of Solomon, vii 22-29.


Philo the Jew.

24. The fusion of Greek and Judaic modes of thought is most complete in the works of Philo the Jew (c. 20 B.C.-54 A.D.). This writer in commenting upon the books of the Old Testament, finds himself able by way of interpretation to introduce large parts of Greek philosophies. The place of Wisdom in the writer last named is taken in his works by the Logos or ‘Word[61]’; and the ‘Word’ is many times described as an emanation of the deity, after the Persian fashion[62]. Without anticipating the further discussion of this philosophical conception, we may well notice here how characteristic it is of an age which paid boundless homage to reason, and how it supplies a counterpoise to conceptions of the deity which are rigidly personal. But Philo is of still more direct service to the study of Stoicism, because he had so completely absorbed the system that, where other authorities fail us, we may often trust to his expositions for a knowledge of details of the Stoic system.

Another work of about the same period is the Fourth book of the Maccabees, in which Stoic ethics, only slightly disguised, are illustrated from Jewish history. In this fusion of Hebraic and Hellenistic thought, unfortunately interrupted by political convulsions, eminent modern Jews have recognised the natural development of the teaching of the Hebrew prophets[63].


25. The foregoing discussions will already have suggested that Christianity is bound by intimate ties to the other world-religions; though it is beyond our present purpose to examine the precise nature of those ties. It is pre-eminently concerned with the breaking down of Jewish nationalism, and its constant appeal to ‘the truth’ is essentially the same as the appeal of kindred systems to ‘wisdom’ or ‘philosophy.’ The Lord’s Prayer, addressed to the ‘Father in heaven,’ and with its further references to ‘The Name,’ ‘The Kingdom,’ ‘The Will,’ ‘temptation,’ and ‘the Evil One,’ reflects[24] the principal conceptions of Persism, of which we are again reminded in the Apocalypse by the reference to the ‘seven spirits of God[64].’ The Sermon on the Mount has been, not without reason, compared to the Buddhist sermon of Benares. With Stoicism Christianity has special ties, both direct and indirect. Its chief apostle was Paul of Tarsus, who was brought up in a city from which more than one eminent Stoic teacher had proceeded[65], and whose ways of thinking are penetrated by Stoic conceptions. The most profound exponent of its theology (the author of the Gospel according to John) placed in the forefront of his system the doctrine of the ‘Word’ which directly or (more probably) indirectly he derived from Stoic sources. The early church writers felt the kinship of thought without perceiving the historical relation. To them Cicero in his Stoic works was ‘anima naturaliter Christiana’; and they could only explain the lofty teachings of Seneca by the belief that he was a secret convert of the apostle Paul[66]. Parallelism between Stoic and Christian phraseology is indeed so frequently traced that it may be well to emphasize the need of caution. It is not by single phrases, often reflecting only the general temper of the times, that we can judge the relation of the two systems; it is necessary also to take into account the general framework and the fundamental principles of each.


26. Of the systems named by Aristotle far the least known to us is Druidism. It appeared to Caesar and other Romans to be the national religion of the Gauls and Britons, exactly as Magism appeared to the Greeks to be the national religion of the Persians. But other evidence indicates that Druidism was a reformed religion or philosophy, not unlike Persism in its principles. The training of Druidical students was long and arduous; it claimed to introduce them to a knowledge of heavenly deities denied to the rest of the world,[25] and to reveal to them the immortality of the soul. Our best authority is the Latin poet Lucan:—

‘To you alone it has been granted to know the gods and the powers of heaven; or (it may be) to you alone to know them wrongly. You dwell in deep forests and far-away groves: according to your teaching the shades do not make their way to the still regions of Erebus or the grey realm of Dis below; the same spirit guides a new body in another world; if you know well what you say, then death is but an interlude in life. If not, at least the peoples, on whom the northern star gazes directly, are happy in their illusion; for the greatest of terrors, the fear of death, is nothing to them. Hence it comes that their warriors’ hearts are ready to meet the sword, and their souls have a welcome for death, and they scorn to be thrifty with life, in which they can claim a second share[67].’

Druidism, like Stoicism, seems to have prepared its adherents for a specially ready acceptance of Christianity.

The goal not reached yet.

27. The story of the world-religions, with their countless prophets, teachers, confessors and martyrs, has its tragic side. We ask what was attained by so much study and self-denial, such courageous defiance of custom and prejudice, such bold strivings after the unattainable, so many hardly spent lives and premature deaths, and feel puzzled to find a reply. To the problems proposed the world-religions gave in turn every possible answer. Some found life sweet, others bitter; some bowed before the inexorable rule of destiny, others believed in a personal and benevolent government of the universe; some looked forward to a life after death, others hoped for annihilation. Their theories crystallized into dogmas, and as such became the banners under which national hatreds once more sought outlet in bloodshed. Their adherents sacrificed everything in the hope of reaching certain and scientific truth, and, at the end of all, religion still appears the whole world over to be in conflict with science, and the thousand years during which Wisdom was counted more precious than riches are often looked back upon as a time of human aberration and childishness. It is not to be denied that thousands of noble spirits set out during this period for a goal that they never reached; and those who are inclined to destructive criticism may plausibly characterise their enterprise as vanity.


The path still onward.

28. It is the task of literary research to pierce through this limited view, and to trace the real effect of philosophical effort on the life of individuals and nations. All over the civilized world it raised a race of heroes, struggling not for power or splendour as in the epoch of barbarism, but for the good of their fellow-men. It gave a new value to life, and trampled under foot the fear of death. It united the nations, and spread the reign of law and justice. Where its influence has weakened, the world has not changed for the better; so that the very failures of the world-religions most attest their value. India has relapsed from Buddhism, its own noblest work, to its earlier creeds, and they still bar its path against social progress. Europe, no longer united by the sentiment of a catholic religion, and increasingly indifferent to literary sympathies, is falling back into the slough of frontier impediments and racial hatreds. From all this there is no way out except in the old-fashioned quest of truth and good will.

Estimates of Stoicism.

29. Both in ancient and in modern times the importance of Stoicism has been very variously estimated, according as the critic has set up a purely literary standard, or has taken into account historical influence. To those who look upon philosophy as it is embodied in books, and forms a subject for mental contemplation and aesthetic enjoyment, the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle have always seemed of far higher rank. As contributions to the progress of humanity, in politics and law, in social order and in the inventive adaptation of material surroundings, they can hardly claim to approach any one of the systems discussed in this chapter. But it is with no wish to depreciate the great masterpieces of Hellenic culture that we now set against the criticisms of some of its ardent advocates the maturer judgment of writers who have approached with greater sympathy the study of the Hellenistic and Roman worlds. ‘In Plato and Aristotle,’ says Zeller, ‘Greek philosophy reached its greatest perfection[68].’ ‘Its bloom was short-lived[69].’ ‘Greece was brought into contact with the Eastern nations, whereby it became subject to a back-current of Oriental thought[70].’ ‘With the decline of political independence the[27] mental powers of the nation were broken past remedy[71].’ ‘What could be expected in such an age, but that philosophy would become practical, if indeed it were studied at all[72]?’ To minds of another temper it does not seem so fatal that ‘philosophy should become practical.’ ‘It should be insisted,’ says Prof. Mahaffy, ‘that the greatest practical inheritance the Greeks left in philosophy was not the splendour of Plato, or the vast erudition of Aristotle, but the practical systems of Zeno and Epicurus, and the scepticism of Pyrrho. In our own day every man is either a Stoic, an Epicurean, or a Sceptic[73].’ The greatness of Stoicism in particular was eloquently recognised by a French writer of the eighteenth century: ‘elle seule savait faire les citoyens, elle seule faisait les grands hommes, elle seule faisait les grands empereurs[74]!’ With these tributes may be compared that paid by a writer who approaches the subject from the standpoint of modern philosophy and theology. ‘[Stoicism] has perennial fascination; and there are not wanting signs that it appeals with special attractiveness to cultured minds at the present day. It has both speculative and practical value; its analysis of human nature and its theory of knowledge, no less than its ethical teaching, giving insight into the problems of the universe and the right mode of guiding life. As an important stage in the march of philosophical thought, and as a luminous chapter in the history of natural theology, it solicits our attention and will repay our study[75].’

Interpretative Stoicism.

30. Judgments so contradictory reveal the fact that ancient divergencies of philosophic sympathies have their counterparts to-day; and perhaps in studying and judging the systems of antiquity a little more is needed of the sympathy and interpretative elasticity which every man unconsciously uses in maintaining the political, philosophic and religious views to which he is attracted by inheritance or personal conviction. Thus to understand Stoicism fully a man must himself become for the time being a Stoic. As such he[28] will no longer bind himself by the letter of the school authorities. In many a phrase they use he will recognise an obsolete habit of thought, an exaggerated opposition, a weak compliance in the face of dominant opinions, or a mistaken reliance upon what once seemed logical conclusions. At other points he will see difficulties felt to which an answer can now easily be supplied. At each step he will ask, not so much what the Stoics thought, but what a Stoic must necessarily think. Whilst constantly referring to the original authorities, he will allow much to be forgotten, and in other cases he will draw out more meaning than the writers themselves set in their words. If he can walk, boldly but not without caution, on this path, he will assuredly find that Stoicism throws light on all the great questions to which men still seek answers, and that to some at least it still holds out a beckoning hand.


[1] See below, § 441.

[2] Diog. L. Prooem. 1.

[3] Gomperz, Greek Thinkers, ii p. 161; and below, § 94.

[4] ‘principes Chaldaei, qui in patentibus campis colebant, stellarum motus et vias et coetus intuentes, quid ex his efficeretur observaverunt’ Gellius, N. A. xiv 1, 8.

[5] Sir E. Walter Maunder, in the Nineteenth Century for September 1900.

[6] ‘quinque stellarum potestates Chaldaeorum observatio excepit’ Seneca, N. Q. ii 32, 6.

[7] This is well described by Cicero, translating from a Stoic source: ‘cum fato omnia fiant, si quis mortalis possit esse, qui colligationem causarum omnium perspiciat animo, nihil eum profecto fallat. qui enim teneat causas rerum futurarum, idem necesse est omnia teneat quae futura sint’ Div. i 56, 127. It seems reasonable to suppose that this general conception of ‘fate’ or ‘destiny’ is deduced from the unchanging movements of the heavenly bodies.

[8] ‘videbis quinque sidera diversas agentia vias; ex horum levissimis motibus fortunae populorum dependent’ Sen. Dial. vi 18, 3.

[9] ‘aiunt quadringenta septuaginta milia annorum in periclitandis experiundisque pueris, quicunque essent nati, Babylonios posuisse’ Cic. Div. ii 46, 97. I assume that the original tradition named the smaller number suggested above.

[10] ‘duo apud Chaldaeos studuisse se dicunt, Epigenes et Apollonius Myndius’ Sen. N. Q. vii 4, 1; ‘Diogenes Stoicus [Chaldaeis] concedit, aliquid ut praedicere possint’ Cic. Div. ii 43, 90. Seneca concludes against their authority, observing (i) that a proper horoscope should include all the stars in the heaven at the moment of birth, and (ii) that twins should always have the same fortune, which is obviously untrue; see N. Q. ii 32, 6 to 8, Ben. vii 1, 5.

[11] ‘tu ne quaesieris (scire nefas), quem mihi, quem tibi | finem di dederint, Leuconoe, nec Babylonios | temptaris numeros’ Hor. C. i 11, 1-3.

[12] See the interesting tale of Thrasyllus and Tiberius in Tac. Ann. vi 21, to which the author affects to give some credit.

[13] e.g., ‘seu Libra seu me Scorpios adspicit | formidulosus, pars violentior | natalis horae, seu tyrannus | Hesperiae Capricornus undae, | utrumque nostrum incredibili modo | consentit astrum’ Hor. C. ii 17, 17-22.

[14] ‘Eudoxus, qui inter sapientiae sectas clarissimam utilissimamque [artem magicam] intellegi voluit, Zoroastrem hunc sex millibus annorum ante Platonis mortem fuisse prodidit: sic et Aristoteles’ Pliny, N. H. xxx 2, 1; cf. Diog. L. Prooem. 2 and 8.

[15] Williams-Jackson, Zoroaster, p. 161.

[16] ib. p. 174.

[17] K. Geldner, Encycl. Brit. ed. x, article ‘Zoroaster.’

[18] Williams-Jackson, p. 7.

[19] ‘Magiam ... cuius scientiae saeculis priscis multa ex Chaldaeorum arcanis Bactrianus addidit Zoroastres’ Amm. Marc. xxiii 6, 32.

[20] [Zoroastres] ‘primus dicitur mundi principia siderumque motus diligentissime spectasse’ Justinus, Hist. Phil. i 1, 9 (Williams-Jackson, p. 237): ‘astris multum et frequenter intentus’ Clem. Rom. Recogn. iv 27.

[21] ‘tradunt Zoroastrem in desertis caseo vixisse’ Pliny, N. H. xi 97.

[22] ‘[Ahura Mazdā] created the paths of the sun and the stars; he made the moon to wax and wane’ (Yasna 43, 3); ‘he made the light and the darkness’ (ib. 5); ‘he is the father of the good’ (ib. 46, 2).

[23] ‘Ζωροάστρης ὁ μάγος ... προσαπεφαίνετο, τὸν μὲν ἑοικέναι φωτὶ μάλιστα τῶν αἰσθητῶν, τὸν δ’ ἔμπαλιν σκότῳ καὶ ἀγνοίᾳ’ Plut. Isid. et Osir. 46.

[24] ‘Thus saith Cyrus, king of Persia:—all the kingdoms of the earth hath the Lord, the God of heaven, given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem’ Ezra i 2.

[25] See the interesting papyri records recently discovered in Elephantine, and published by Dr Sachau of Berlin. A general account of them is given by Prof. Driver in the London Guardian for Nov. 6, 1907.

[26] Cicero rightly appreciated the religious character of the Persian invasions: ‘delubra humanis consecrata simulacris Persae nefaria putaverunt; eamque unam ob causam Xerxes inflammari Atheniensium fana iussisse dicitur, quod deos, quorum domus esset omnis hic mundus, inclusos parietibus contineri nefas esse duceret’ Rep. iii 9, 14. So Themistocles as represented by Herodotus: ‘the gods and heroes grudged that one man should become king both of Asia and of Europe, and he a man unholy and presumptuous, one who made no difference between things sacred and things profane, burning and casting down the images of the gods’ History viii 109 (Macaulay’s translation).

[27] See below, § 41.

[28] ‘Images and temples and altars they do not account it lawful to erect, nay, they even charge with folly those who do these things; and this, as it seems to me, because they do not account the gods to be in the likeness of men, as do the Hellenes. But it is their wont to perform sacrifices to Zeus, going up to the most lofty of the mountains, and the whole circle of the heavens they call Zeus: and they sacrifice to the Sun and the Moon and the Earth, to Fire and to Water and to the Winds; these are the only gods to whom they have sacrificed ever from the first’ History i 131 (Macaulay’s translation).

[29] Cic. Sen. 22, 79 to 81, after Xen. Cyr. viii 7.

[30] In the hymns of Zarathustra we can only trace the beginnings of this system, as in the following: ‘All-wise Lord, all-powerful one, and thou Piety, and Righteousness, Good Mind and the Kingdom, listen ye to me and prosper my every beginning’ Yasna 33, 11.

[31] Yasht xix 15, 16. The translation follows Geldner, Drei Yasht aus dem Zendavesta, p. 15.

[32] Ancient Greek hymn, φῶς ἱλαρὸν ἁγίας δόξης, translated by J. Keble.

[33] J. H. Newman.

[34] ‘Zoroaster taught the Persians neither to burn their dead, nor otherwise to defile fire.’ Xanthos (B.C. 465-425), as quoted by Nicolaus of Damascus (1st century B.C.).

[35] See § 10, note 28; Strabo xv 3, 16.

[36] ‘Zarathustra said:—the earthly demon is water derived from earth; the heavenly demon is fire mixed with air’ Origen, contra haereses, i col. 3025.

[37] ‘The Persians first worshipped fire as a god in heaven’ Clemens Romanus, Hom. ix 4 f.

[38] ‘Zoroaster the Magian says:—God is the primal, the incorruptible, the eternal, the unbegotten, the indivisible, the incomparable, the charioteer of all good, he that cannot be bribed, the best of the good, the wisest of the wise; he is also the father of good laws and justice, the self-taught, the natural, perfect, and wise, the only discoverer of the sacred and natural’ Euseb. Praep. ev. i 10.

[39] ‘From the writings of Zoroaster it is inferred that he divided philosophy into three parts, physics, economics, and politics’ Schol. on First Alcibiades, p. 122 A (Williams-Jackson, p. 231).

[40] ‘They educate their children, beginning at five years old and going on till twenty, in three things only; in riding, in shooting, and in speaking the truth’ Herod. i 136.

[41] See above, § 3.

[42] Alexander had reached the river Hyphasis, the modern Bias.

[43] Plutarch’s Life of Alexander, ch. lxiv (translation by Aubrey Stewart and George Long, London, 1892).

[44] Mahāvagga i 6, 19 to 22, after H. Oldenberg, Buddha, p. 139, and the translation in S. B. E. xiii pp. 95, 96.

[45] Dhammapada i 5 and xvii 123 (S. B. E. x pp. 5, 58).

[46] Mahaffy, Empire of the Ptolemies, p. 164. These alternative interpretations of the doctrine of Nirvana must not be accepted as uncontroversial.

[47] Mahaffy, Empire of the Ptolemies, p. 163; V. A. Smith, Açoka, p. 174.

[48] See Gomperz, Greek Thinkers, ii pp. 155-162, and below, § 52.

[49] Epict. Disc. iii 24, 64 to 66 (Long’s translation).

[50] ib. iii 22, 45 to 50.

[51] ‘The system that stood to Pagan Rome more nearly than anything else in the place of a religion’ Crossley, M. Aurelius, iv Pref. p. xii. ‘Its history resembles that of a religion rather than a speculative system’ Rendall, M. Aurelius, Pref. p. xv.

[52] See below, § 173.

[53] ‘Patricians, as we call them, only too often fail in natural affection’ M. Aurel. To himself, i 12 (Rendall’s translation). See also below, §§ 442, 443.

[54] ‘Dying, [Stoicism] bequeathed no small part of its disciplines, its dogmas, and its phraseology to the Christianity by which it was ingathered’ Rendall, M. Aurelius, Pref. p. xv. ‘The basis of Christian society is not Christian, but Roman and Stoical’ Hatch, Hibbert Lectures, p. 170. ‘[The post-Aristotelian period] supplied the scientific mould into which Christianity in the early years of its growth was cast, and bearing the shape of which it has come down to us’ O. J. Reichel in his Preface to the translation of Zeller’s Stoics, etc.

[55] See above, § 9.

[56] It is not admitted by the best authorities that the term ‘Pharisee’ is in any way connected with the name of ‘Persian’ or its modern equivalent ‘Parsee.’ But the resemblance in beliefs and habits is very striking, especially if we contrast the Pharisees with their Sadducee opponents. ‘The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit; but the Pharisees confess both’ Acts xxiii 8.

[57] D. A. Bertholet, ‘The value of the history of religions,’ Homiletic Review, Nov. 1908.

[58] See Fairweather, Background of the Gospels, ch. vii (on ‘the apocalyptic movement and literature’).

[59] ib. p. 337.

[60] See above, § 12.

[61] Heinze, Lehre vom Logos, pp. 251, 252.

[62] ‘The Logos is related to God as Wisdom, and is the full expression of the Divine mind. He is the sheckinah or glory of God, the first-born Son of God, the second God’ Fairweather, Background of the Gospels, p. 358.

[63] Friedländer, Die religiösen Bewegungen innerhalb des Judaïsmus, 1905.

[64] ‘There were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God’ Revelation iv 5.

[65] Of these Antipater of Tarsus is the best known, for whom see § 110; others are Heraclides, Archedemus, Zeno of Tarsus, Nestor, Athenodorus, etc., for whom see Index of Proper Names.

[66] Winckler, Der Stoicismus, p. 2; Lightfoot, Philippians, pp. 270, 271.

[67] Lucan, Phars. i 452-462.

[68] Stoics, etc., p. 1.

[69] ib. p. 10.

[70] ib. pp. 13, 14.

[71] ib. p. 15.

[72] ib. p. 16.

[73] Greek Life and Thought, Introd., pp. xxxvii, xxxviii.

[74] Montesquieu, Esprit des lois, ii 24.

[75] W. L. Davidson, The Stoic Creed, p. v.



Greek thought.

31. We have seen already that the great problems of which Stoicism propounds one solution were agitated during the millennium which preceded the Christian era alike in India, Persia and Asia Minor on the one hand, and in Greece, Italy and the Celtic countries on the other. To the beginnings of this movement we are unable to assign a date; but the current of thought appears on the whole to have moved from East to West. But just at the same time the influence of Greek art and literature spreads from West to East; and it is to the crossing and interweaving of these two movements that we owe almost all the light thrown on this part of the history of human thought. The early history of Stoicism has reached us entirely through the Greek language, and is bound up with the history of Greek literature and philosophy[1]. But long before Stoicism came into existence other movements similar in kind had reached Greece; and the whole of early Greek literature, and especially its poetry, is rich in contributions to the discussion of the physical and ethical problems to which Stoicism addressed itself. From the storehouse of this earlier literature the Stoics drew many of their arguments and illustrations; the speculations of Heraclitus and the life of Socrates were especially rich in suggestions to them. The study of Greek literature and philosophy as a whole is therefore indispensable for a full appreciation of Stoicism; and the way has been made easier of[30] late by excellent treatises, happily available in the English language, dealing with the general development of philosophic and religious thought in Greece[2]. Here it is only possible to refer quite shortly to those writers and teachers to whom Stoicism is most directly indebted.


32. Although the Homeric poems include representations of gods and men corresponding to the epoch of national gods and to other still earlier stages of human thought, nevertheless they are pervaded by at least the dawning light of the period of the world-religions. Tales of the gods that are bloodthirsty or coarse are kept in the background; and though heroes like Agamemnon, Achilles, and Ajax move in an atmosphere of greed, bloodshed, and revenge, yet all of them are restrained both in word and in act by a strong feeling of self-respect, the αἰδώς or shamefastness which entirely differentiates them from the heroes of folk-lore; in particular, the typical vices of gluttony, drunkenness, and sexual unrestraint are amongst the things of which it is a shame to speak without reserve. The gods are many, and in human shape; yet they are somewhat fairer than men, and something of the heavenly brilliance in which the Persian archangels are wrapped seems to encircle also the heights where the gods dwell on mount Olympus[3]. Gradually too there comes to light amidst the picture of the many gods something resembling a supreme power, sometimes impersonally conceived as Fate (αἶσα, μοῖρα), sometimes more personally as the Fate of Zeus, most commonly of all as Zeus himself, elevated in rank above all other gods[4]. Thus Zeus is not only king, but also father of gods and men[5]; he is the dispenser of happiness to men, ‘to the good and the evil, to each one as he will[6],’ and the distributor of gracious[31] gifts[7], unbounded in power[8] and in knowledge[9]. The gods again, in spite of the many tales of violence attached to their names, exercise a moral governance over the world. ‘They love not froward deeds, but they reverence justice and the righteous acts of men[10]’; ‘in the likeness of strangers from far countries, they put on all manner of shapes, and wander through the cities, beholding the violence and the righteousness of men[11].’

Whilst therefore the philosophers of later times could rightly object to Homer that he told of the gods tales neither true nor worthy of their nature, there was on the other hand much in the Iliad and Odyssey, and particularly in the latter, which was in harmony with philosophical conceptions. It was not without reason that the Stoics themselves made of Ulysses, who in Homer plays but little part in fighting, an example of the man of wisdom and patience, who knows men and cities, and who through self-restraint and singleness of purpose at last wins his way to the goal[12]. From this starting-point the whole of the Odyssey is converted into a ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’; the enchantress Circe represents the temptations of gluttony, which turns men into swine[13]; the chant of the Sirens is an allegory of the enticements of sensual pleasure.


33. In Hesiod (8th century B.C.) we find the first attempt to construct a history of the universe; his Theogony is the forerunner of the Cosmology which later on is a recognised part of philosophy. Here in the company of the personal gods we find not only the personified lights of heaven, Sun and Moon, but also such figures as those of Earth and Ocean, Night and Day, Heaven and Hell, Fate, Sleep, and Death, all bearing witness to the emergence of the spirit of speculation. In Hesiod again we first find the description of the ‘watchmen of Jove,’ who are no longer the gods themselves as in Homer, but an intermediate class of beings, corresponding to the Persian angels and the δαίμονες of later Greek.


‘Thrice ten thousand are the servants of Zeus, immortal, watchmen over mortal men; these watch deeds of justice and of wickedness, walking all ways up and down the earth, clothed in the mist[14].’

But it is in his ethical standards that Hesiod is more directly a forerunner of the Stoic school: for neither the warlike valour nor the graceful self-control of the hero appeals to him, but the stern sense of justice and the downright hard work of the plain man.

‘Full across the way of Virtue the immortal gods have set the sweat of the brow; long and steep is the path that reaches to her, and rough at the beginning; but when you reach the highest point, hard though it is, in the end it becomes easy[15].’

The Orphic poems.

34. Between Epic and Attic literature stands the poetry of the ‘Orphic’ movement, belonging to the sixth century B.C., and exercising a wide influence over various schools of philosophy in the succeeding centuries. For an account of this movement the reader must look elsewhere[16]; here we can only notice that it continued the cosmological speculations of Hesiod’s Theogony, and in particular developed a strain of pantheism which is echoed in the Stoic poets. According to an Orphic poet

‘Zeus is the first and the last, the head and the foot, the male and the female, Earth and Heaven, Night and Day; he is the one force, the one great deity, the creator, the alluring power of love; for all these things are immanent in the person of Zeus[17].’

Here amidst the fusion of poetry and theology we first see the budding principle of philosophic monism, the reaching after a unity which will comprehend all things. To the same school is attributed the doctrine that ‘the human soul is originally and essentially divine[18].’

The Hylozoists.

35. To the sixth century B.C. belong also the earliest Greek philosophers who are known to us by name. In all of these the early polytheism is either abandoned[33] or becomes so dim in its outlines that the origin and governing force of the universe is sought in quite other directions. The philosophers of Ionia busied themselves with the problem of the elements. Thales of Miletus was a man of many attainments; he had travelled both in Egypt and in Babylon, and was an active political reformer. To him water was the primary substance, from which all others proceeded and to which they returned[19]. Anaximander of the same town was the first who undertook to give the Greeks a map of the whole known world. To him it seemed that the primary matter could not be the same as any visible substance, but must be a protoplasm of undefined character (ἄπειρον), capable of assuming in turn all shapes[20]. Anaximenes (once more of Miletus) assumed air as the first principle, and derived the other elements from it by processes of condensation (πύκνωσις) and rarefaction[21]. But on one point all the Ionian philosophers were agreed: the primary substance was the cause of its own motion; they were ‘hylozoists,’ since they hold that matter (ὕλη) is a living thing (ζῷον). They are from the standpoint of physics ‘monists,’ as opposed to those who hold matter and life, or matter and force, to be two things eternally distinct, and are therefore ‘dualists’ in their theory[22].


36. To the same sixth century belong two other notable philosophers. Pythagoras, born in Samos about 575 B.C., and like Thales, one who had travelled widely, left his native land rather than submit to the rule of a tyrant, and founded in Croton in Lower Italy a community half religious and half political, which in its original form was not long-lived. But a widespread tradition remained as to his[34] doctrines, in which the theory of Numbers held a leading position. Pythagoras appears to have been a good mathematician and astronomer, and followers of his school were at an early date led to the doctrines of the rotation of the earth on its axis and the central position of the sun in the planetary system[23]. His name is also connected with the theory of the transmigration of souls, which we may suppose him to have derived ultimately from some Indian source; and to the same country we must look as having suggested to him and his followers the practice of abstaining from animal food[24].


37. If we looked merely to the theories of the philosophers, it might seem as if the old mythologies and theogonies were already dead. But in fact the battle was yet to come. Xenophanes of Colophon (born circ. 580 B.C.) witnessed in his youth the fall of Ionia before the conquering progress of Cyrus king of Persia. Rather than submit to the power of the invader he adopted the life of a wandering minstrel, and finally settled in Elea, in Lower Italy, where he became the founder of the Eleatic school. But in his religious convictions he was whole-heartedly on the Persian side. ‘There is one God, greatest amongst gods[25] and men, not like mortal men in bodily shape or in mind[26].’ Thus the worship of many gods and that of images of the deity are alike condemned; and it is probable that in this false worship he found the cause of his country’s fall. With the lack of historic sense which is characteristic of the zealous reformer, he condemned Homer and Hesiod as teachers of immorality, since they ‘ascribed to the gods theft, adultery, and deceit, and all acts that are counted shame and blame amongst men[27].’ With keen criticism he pointed out that myths as to the birth of the gods dishonoured them just as much as if they related their deaths; for on either supposition there is a time when the gods do not exist[28]. The conception of the deity formed by Xenophanes seems to approach Pantheism or Nature-worship,[35] and so far to foreshadow the Stoic deity; but the fragments that survive of his works are insufficient to make this point clear[29]. The successors of Xenophanes did not inherit his religious zeal, but they emphasized all the more the philosophic principle of an ultimate Unity in all things.


38. With the opening of the fifth century B.C. we reach Heraclitus of Ephesus, a philosopher of the highest importance to us, since the Stoics afterwards accepted his teaching as the foundation of their own system of physics. The varied speculations of the sixth century were all examined by Heraclitus, and all found wanting by him; his own solutions of the problems of the world are set forth in a prophetic strain, impressive by its dignity, obscure in its form, and lending itself to much variety of interpretation. For the opinions of the crowd, who are misled by their senses, he had no respect[30]; but even learning does not ensure intelligence[31], unless men are willing to be guided by the ‘Word,’ the universal reason[32]. The senses shew us in the universe a perpetual flowing: fire changes to water (sky to cloud), water to earth (in rainfall), which is the downward path; earth changes to water (rising mist), and water to fire, which is the upward path[33]. Behind these changes the Word points to that which is one and unchanging[34]. Anaximander did well when he pointed to the unlimited as the primary stuff, but it is better to describe it as an ‘ever-living fire[35].’ Out of this fire all things come, and into it they shall all be resolved[36]. Of this ever-living fire a spark is[36] buried in each man’s body; whilst the body lives, this spark, the soul, may be said to be dead[37]; but when the body dies it escapes from its prison, and enters again on its proper life. The ‘Word’ is from everlasting[38]; through the Word all things happen[39]; it is the universal Law which holds good equally in the physical world and in the soul of man. For man’s soul there is a moral law, which can be reached only by studying the plan of the world in which we live[40]. But of this law men are continually forgetful; they live as in a dream, unconscious of it; it calls to them once and again, but they do not hear it[41]. Most of all it is needed in the government of the state; for ‘he who speaks with understanding must take his foothold on what is common to all; for all human laws are nourished by the one divine law[42].’

The Word.

39. The general import of the physical teaching of Heraclitus, and the indebtedness of the Stoics to it, have long been recognised: the bearing of this teaching upon religion, ethics and politics is a more disputable matter. Does Heraclitus by the ‘Logos’ which he so often names mean merely his own reasoning and message? is he speaking of the common reason of mankind? or does the term suggest to him a metaphysical abstraction, a divine power through which the world is created and governed? For the fuller meaning we have analogies in the beliefs of Persism before Heraclitus, and of Stoics, Judaists, and Christians afterwards. The latest commentator, adopting this explanation, sums it up in three propositions: first, the ‘Logos’ is eternal, being both pre-existent and everlasting, like the world-god of Xenophanes; secondly, all things both in the material and in the spiritual world happen through the ‘Logos’; it is a cosmic principle,[37] ‘common’ or ‘universal’; and in the third place, it is the duty of man to obey this ‘Logos,’ and so to place himself in harmony with the rest of nature. And accordingly, in agreement with many recent writers, he adopts the translation ‘the Word’ as on the whole the most adequate[43]. Even the Romans found it impossible to translate λόγος by any single word, and they therefore adopted the phrase ratio et oratio (reason and speech); in modern language it seems clearly to include also the broad notion of ‘Universal Law’ or the ‘Laws of Nature.’ If we can rightly attribute to Heraclitus all that is thus included in the interpretation of this one word, he certainly stands out as a great creative power in Greek philosophy, harmonizing by bold generalizations such diverse provinces as those of physics, religion, and ethics; ‘he was the first [in Greece, we must understand] to build bridges, which have never since been destroyed, between the natural and the spiritual life[44].’ It is to the Stoics almost alone that we owe it that teaching so suggestive and so practical was converted into a powerful social and intellectual force.

Zarathustra and Heraclitus.

40. The prominence given to fire in the system of Heraclitus has very naturally suggested that his doctrine is borrowed from that of Zarathustra[45]. The historical circumstances are not unfavourable to this suggestion. Ionia was conquered in turn by Cyrus and Darius, and definitely annexed by Persia about 496 B.C., that is, at the very time at which Heraclitus taught. Moreover the Persian invasion was akin to a religious crusade, and had for a principal aim the stamping out of the idle and superstitious habit of worshipping images, by which (according to the Persians) the true God was dishonoured. The elevated character of the Persian religion could hardly fail to attract learned Greeks, already dissatisfied with the crude mythology of their own people. Further, the resemblance between the teaching of Zarathustra and that of Heraclitus is not restricted to the language used of the divine fire; the doctrines of an all-creating, all-pervading Wisdom, the[38] λόγος or Word, and of the distinction between the immortal soul and the corruptible body, are common to both. But the differences between the two systems are almost equally striking. Heraclitus is a monist; according to him all existences are ultimately one. Zarathustra taught a principle of Evil, everywhere opposed to the Good Spirit, and almost equally powerful; his system is dualist[45a]. Zarathustra is not free from nationalism, Heraclitus is cosmopolitan. In the Ephesian system we find no trace of the belief in Judgment after death, in Heaven, or in Hell. We may in fact well believe that Heraclitus was acquainted with Zoroastrianism and influenced by it, but we have not the means to determine what the extent of that influence was. It is related of him that he received (but declined) an invitation to the court of Darius; and that his dead body was given up to be torn to pieces by dogs in the Persian fashion[45b].

The tragedians.

41. The development of philosophic thought at Athens was, as we have noticed, much complicated by the political relations of Greece to Persia. Although the Persian empire had absorbed Asia Minor, it was decisively repulsed in its attacks on Greece proper. Athens was the centre of the resistance to it, and the chief glory of the victories of Marathon (490 B.C.) and Salamis (480 B.C.) fell to Athenian statesmen and warriors. By these successes the Hellenes not only maintained their political independence, but saved the images of their gods from imminent destruction. A revival of polytheistic zeal took place, as might have been expected. The wealth and skill of Greece were ungrudgingly expended in the achievement of masterpieces of the sculptor’s art, and their housing in magnificent temples. But even so religious doctrines strikingly similar to those of the Persians gained ground. The same Aeschylus who (in his Persae) celebrates the defeat of the national enemy, a few years later (in his Agamemnon) questions whether the Supreme Ruler be really pleased with the Greek title of Zeus, and the Greek method of worshipping him[46].[39] His more conservative successor Sophocles was contented, in the spirit of the Homeric bards, to eliminate from the old myths all that seemed unworthy of the divine nature. Euripides adopts a bolder tone. Reproducing the old mythology with exact fidelity, he ‘assails the resulting picture of the gods with scathing censure and flat contradiction[47].’ With equal vigour he attacks the privileges of noble birth, and defends the rights of the slave; he has a keen sympathy for all the misfortunes that dog man’s life; but his ethical teaching in no way derives its sanction from any theology. The Hellenes have lost confidence in their inherited outlook on the world.

The Sophists.

42. The same problems which the poets discussed in the city theatre were during the fifth century B.C. the themes of a class of men now becoming so numerous as to form the nucleus of a new profession. These were the ‘sophists,’ who combined the functions now performed partly by the university professor, partly by the public journalist[48]. Dependent for their livelihood upon the fees of such pupils as they could attract, and therefore sensitive enough to the applause of the moment, they were distinguished from the philosophers by a closer touch with the public opinion of the day, and a keener desire for immediate results. Their contribution to philosophic progress was considerable. Cultivating with particular care the art of words, they created a medium by which philosophic thought could reach the crowd of men of average education; eager advocates of virtue and political progress, they gave new hopes to a people which, in spite of its material successes, was beginning to despair because of the decay of its old moral and civic principles. In Prodicus of Ceos we find a forerunner of the popular Stoic teachers of the period of the principate[49]:

‘A profound emotion shook the ranks of his audience when they heard his deep voice, that came with so strange a sound from the frail body that contained it. Now he would describe the hardships of human existence;[40] now he would recount all the ages of man, beginning with the new-born child, who greets his new home with wailing, and tracing his course to the second childhood and the gray hairs of old age. Again he would rail at death as a stony-hearted creditor, wringing his pledges one by one from his tardy debtor, first his hearing, then his sight, next the free movement of his limbs. At another time, anticipating Epicurus, he sought to arm his disciples against the horrors of death by explaining that death concerned neither the living nor the dead. As long as we live, death does not exist; as soon as we die, we ourselves exist no longer[50].’

To Prodicus we owe the well-known tale of Hercules at the parting of the ways, when Virtue on the one hand, and Pleasure on the other, each invite him to join company with her[51]. This tale we shall find to be a favourite with the Roman philosophers. The same Prodicus introduced a doctrine afterwards taken up by the Cynics and the Stoics in succession, that of the ‘indifference’ of external advantages as distinct from the use to which they are applied. He also propounded theories as to the origin of the gods of mythology, explaining some of them as personifications of the powers of nature, others as deified benefactors of the human race[52]; theories which later on were adopted with zeal by the Stoic Persaeus[53]. To another sophist, Hippias of Elis, we owe the doctrine of the ‘self-sufficiency’ of virtue, again adopted both by Cynics and Stoics[54]. Antiphon was not only the writer of an ‘Art of Consolation,’ but also of a treatise of extraordinary eloquence on political concord and the importance of education. ‘If a noble disposition be planted in a young mind, it will engender a flower that will endure to the end, and that no rain will destroy, nor will it be withered by drought[55].’

The Materialists.

43. Amongst the sophists of Athens was counted Anaxagoras, born at Clazomenae about 500 B.C., and a diligent student of the Ionic philosophers. But in his explanation of nature he broke away from ‘hylozoism’ and introduced a dualism of mind and matter. ‘From eternity all things were together, but Mind stirred and ordered them[56].’[41] More famous was his contemporary Empedocles of Agrigentum, whose name is still held in honour by the citizens of that town. In him we first find the list of elements reaching to four, earth, air, fire, and water; and the doctrine that visible objects consist of combinations of the elements in varying proportions, first brought together by Love, then separated by Hatred. Just in so far as Empedocles abandoned the quest after a single origin for all things, his conceptions became fruitful as the basis of the more limited study now known as Chemistry. His work was carried further by Leucippus and Democritus, both of Abdera, who for the four elements substituted invisible atoms, of countless variety, moving by reason of their own weight in an empty space. This simple and powerful analysis is capable of dealing effectively with many natural phenomena, and with comparatively slight alterations is still held to be valid in chemical analysis, and exercises a wide influence over the neighbouring sciences of physics and botany. When however (as has frequently been the case both in ancient and modern times) the attempt is made to build upon it a general philosophical system, its failure to explain the cohesion of matter in masses, the growth of plants and animals, and the phenomena of mind, become painfully apparent. Such attempts roughly correspond to the attitude of mind now called materialism, because in them the atoms, endowed with the material properties of solidity, shape, and weight alone, are conceived to be the only true existences, all others being secondary and derivative. This materialism (with some significant qualifications) was a century later the central doctrine of Epicurus, and is of importance to us by reason of its sharp contrast with the Stoic system of physics.


44. The value of these scientific speculations was not for the time being fully recognised at Athens. It was in the atmosphere of sophistic discussion, not free from intellectual mists, but bracing to the exercise of civic and even of martial virtue that Socrates of Athens (circ. 469-399 B.C.) grew to maturity. He set to his fellow-citizens an example of the vigorous performance of duty. As a soldier he was brave almost to rashness, and took an active part in three campaigns.[42] As a magistrate he discharged his duty unflinchingly. After the battle of Arginusae the ten Athenian generals were said to have neglected the duty of succouring certain disabled ships and the people loudly demanded that all should be condemned to death by a single vote. Socrates was one of the presiding senators, and he absolutely refused to concur in any such illegal procedure[56a]. Again, when Athens was under the rule of the Thirty, Socrates firmly refused to obey their unjust orders[57]. But when himself condemned to death, he refused to seize an opportunity for flight which was given him; for this, he said, would be to disobey the laws of his country[58].

His private life was marked by a firm self-control. Athens was now wealthy, and its leading citizens frequently gathered together for festive purposes. Socrates joined them, but showed the greatest moderation in eating and drinking: such a course, he said, was the better for health and also produced more real pleasure. Over the grosser temptations of the senses he had won a complete victory[59]. His temper was calm and even; he was not put out by the violences of his wife, nor did he allow himself to break out into rage with his slaves. His personal habits, though simple, were careful: he did not approve any neglect either of bodily cleanliness or of neatness in dress.

Thus Socrates gave an example of a life of activity and self-control (ἰσχὺς καὶ κράτος); and by his character, even more than by his speculation, exercised an influence which extended widely over many centuries.

His teaching.

45. The teaching of Socrates is not easily reduced to the set formulae of a philosophic school. But clearly it was focussed upon the life of men in the city and in the home, and was no longer chiefly concerned with the phenomena of the sky or the history of the creation of the universe. So Cicero well says of him that ‘Socrates called philosophy down from the heavens to earth, and introduced it into the houses and cities of men, compelling men to enquire concerning life and morals and things good and evil[60]’; and[43] Seneca that he ‘recalled the whole of philosophy to moral questions, and said that the supreme wisdom was to distinguish between good and evil[61].’ He had no higher object than to send out young men, of whose good disposition he was assured, to take an active part in the affairs of the community, and to this course he urged them individually and insistently[62]. But it must not be supposed that he put on one side problems concerned with the acquirement of truth, or with the constitution and government of the universe. His views on these points carried perhaps all the more weight because they were stated by him not as personal opinions, but as points upon which he desired to share the convictions of his neighbours, if only they could assure him that reason was on their side.

Reason the guide.

46. Socrates more than any other man possessed the art of persuasive reasoning, thereby making his companions wiser and better men. First he asked that terms should be carefully defined, so that each man should know what the nature is of each thing that exists[63], and should examine himself and know well of what he speaks. Next he introduced the practice of induction (ἐπακτικοὶ λόγοι), by which men make larger the outlook of their minds, understand one thing by comparison with another, and arrange the matter of their thought by classes[64]. By induction we arrive at general truths: not however by any mechanical or mathematical process, but (at least in the higher matters) by the use of Divination, that is, by a kind of divine enlightenment[65]. He who has accustomed himself to think with deliberation, to look on the little in its relation to the great, and to attune himself to the divine will, goes out into the world strengthened in self-restraint, in argumentative power, and in active goodwill to his fellow-men.

Most directly this method appeals to the future statesman. Of those who seek the society of Socrates many intend to[44] become generals or magistrates. Let them consider well what these words mean. Is not a pilot one who knows how to steer a ship? a cook one who knows how to prepare food? must we not then say that a statesman is one who knows how to guide the state? And how can he know this but by study and training? Must we not then say generally that all arts depend on knowledge, and knowledge on study? Do we not reach the general truths that ‘virtue is knowledge’ and that ‘virtue can be taught’? We may hesitate as to how to apply these principles to our individual actions, and Socrates will accuse none on this point; but for himself he has a divine monitor which never fails to warn him when his mind is turned towards a course which the gods disapprove.

His dualism in physics.

47. In the speculations of the Ionian philosophers Socrates could find no satisfaction. But one day he discovered with pleasure the words of Anaxagoras: ‘it is mind that orders the world and is cause of all things[66].’ Thus he was attracted to a dualistic view of the universe, in which matter and mind are in fundamental contrast. In the beginning there existed a chaos of unordered dead meaningless matter, and also mind, the principle of life, meaning, and order. Mind touched matter, and the universe sprang into being. Mind controls matter, and thus the universe continues to exist. The proof is found in the providential adaptation of the world for the life and comfort of mankind: for it is only consistent to suppose that things that exist for use are the work of mind[67]. He that made man gave him eyes to see with, ears to hear with, and a mouth conveniently placed near to the organs of sight and smell; he implanted in him a love of his offspring, and in the offspring a love of its parents; and lastly endowed him with a soul capable of understanding and worshipping his maker. For the divine power Socrates uses quite indifferently the words ‘god’ and ‘gods’: but his belief is essentially monotheistic. In the gods of the city of Athens he[45] has ceased to believe, although he still makes sacrifices upon their altars in good-humoured conformity with the law, and even adopts the popular term ‘divination[68],’ though in a sense very different to that in which the official priesthood used it.

In the analysis of human nature Socrates adopts a similar dualism. Man consists of body and soul: the soul is lord and king over the body, and indeed may rightly be called divine, if anything that has touch with humanity is such[69].

His pietism.

48. The practical teaching of Socrates was entirely dominated by his religious principles. The gods, he held, know all things, our words, our deeds, and the secrets of our hearts: they are everywhere present and give counsel to men concerning the whole of life[70]. The first duty of man is therefore to enter into communion with the gods by prayer, asking them to give us the good and deliver us from the evil, but not qualifying the prayer by any instruction to the gods as to what is good or evil; for this the gods themselves know best[71]. In these words then we may pray: ‘Zeus our king, give us what is good for us whether we ask for it or not; what is evil, even though we ask for it in prayer, keep far from us[72].’

In this spirit of what we should to-day call ‘pietism’ we must interpret his principle that ‘virtue is knowledge[73].’ This not only asserts that no one can rightly practise any art unless he has studied and understands it, but also that no one can rightly understand an art without practising it. We say that there are men who know what is good and right, but do not perform it; but this is not so; for such men in truth think that some other course is good for them. Only the wise and pious man has a right understanding; others cannot do good even if they try[74]; and when they do evil, even that they do without willing it[75].

In its application to politics the teaching of Socrates came into collision with the democratic sentiments prevalent at Athens.[46] To say the least, Socrates had no prejudice against the rule of kings. He distinguished sharply between kingship and tyranny, saying that the rule of one man with the assent of his subjects and in accordance with the laws was kingship, but without such assent and according to the man’s arbitrary will was tyranny. But under whatever constitutional form government was carried on, Socrates asserted that those who knew the business of government were alone the true rulers, and that the will of the crowd, if conflicting with that of the wise, was both foolish and impious[76].

Why Socrates was condemned.

49. So teaching and influencing men Socrates lived in Athens till his seventieth year was past, and then died by the hands of the public executioner. This fate he might so easily have avoided that it seemed almost to be self-chosen. His disciple Xenophon expresses amazement that the jurors should have condemned a man so modest and so wise, and so practical a benefactor of the Athenian people[77]. Modern historians, with a wider knowledge of human nature, wonder rather that Socrates was allowed to live so long[78]. The accusers complained that Socrates offended by disbelieving in the gods of the city, introducing new deities, and corrupting the youth of Athens. From the point of view of conservatively-minded Athenians, the charges were amply justified. Clearly Socrates disbelieved, not merely in the official gods of the city, but also in the deities it worshipped most earnestly, democracy and empire. Not only did he introduce new deities, but it might fairly be argued that he was introducing the most essential parts of the religion of the national enemy, Persia. Daily inculcating these heretical doctrines upon young men of the highest families in Athens, he might well be the cause that the Athenian state was less unquestioningly served than[47] before. That the heresies of Socrates were soundly founded on wide observation and general truths could not be considered to make them less dangerous. Athens had already passed the time when its political power could be of service to its neighbours; it had not reached that when it could be content with intellectual influence; Socrates, just because he was in harmony with the future of Athens, was a discordant element in its present.

The companions of Socrates.

50. It is with difficulty, and not without the risk of error, that we trace even in outline the positive teaching of Socrates. The severe self-repression with which he controlled his senses was exercised by him no less over his intelligence. In his expositions it took the shape of irony (εἰρωνεία), that is, the continual withholding of his personal convictions, and obstetrics (μαιευτική), the readiness to assist others in bringing their speculations to the birth. Thus he was a great educator rather than a great teacher. For whilst he held that virtue alone was worthy of investigation, and that virtue was essentially wisdom, he professed to be entirely at a loss where to find this wisdom for himself; he left it to his pupils to go out and discover the precious cup. Thus whilst men of all classes and with every variety of mental bias listened to his teaching, not one was content with his negative attitude. Of the various suggestions which Socrates threw out, without committing himself to any one, his pupils took up each in turn and endeavoured to construct out of it a system[79]. These systems were in the sharpest possible contrast one with another, but they have certain points in common. All the teachers retained a strong personal affection and loyalty towards their common master; each was convinced that he alone possessed the secret of his real convictions. All of them held aloof from the physical speculations of which the ripe fruit was already being gathered in by the Atomists. The portal of knowledge was to all of them the right use of the reasoning power; the shrine itself was the discipline of virtue, the attainment of happiness, the perfect ordering of social life. Such were the Socratic[48] schools, in which philosophy was now somewhat sharply divided into the two branches of dialectics and ethics. Another century had yet to elapse before the rejected discipline of physics again established its importance.

The Cynics.

51. Of the Socratic schools three contributed directly to the Stoic system. Of these the Cynic school, founded by Antisthenes of Athens (circ. 440-365 B.C.) and developed by Diogenes of Sinope, is its immediate precursor. The Cynic masters inherited most completely the moral earnestness[80] and the direct pietistic teaching of Socrates; and for this reason Antisthenes appears to have been the master’s favourite pupil. The lives both of these men and of their successors were marked by simplicity and self-abnegation, and they devoted themselves with true missionary zeal to the reformation of moral outcasts. The caricature of the figure of Diogenes which was promulgated by his opponents and still lives in literary tradition needs constantly to be corrected by the picture which Epictetus gives of him, and which (though not without an element of idealization and hero-worship) shews us the man as he appeared to his own disciples.

The breach with the state-religion which was latent in Socrates was displayed without disguise by the Cynics. Antisthenes, following in the track of the ardent Xenophanes, declared that the popular gods were many, but the god of nature was one[81]; he denounced the use of images[82]; and he and his followers naturally acquired the reproach of atheism[83]. Equally offensive to the Athenians was their cosmopolitanism[84], which treated the pride of Hellenic birth as vain, and poured contempt on the glorious victories of Marathon and Salamis. Nor did the Cynics consider the civilization of their times as merely indifferent; they treated it as the source of all social evils, and looked for a remedy in the return to a ‘natural’ life, to the supposed simplicity and virtue of the savage unspoilt by[49] education. Thus they formulated a doctrine which especially appealed to those who felt themselves simple and oppressed, and which has been well described as ‘the philosophy of the proletariate of the Greek world[85].’

Cynic intuitionism.

52. The destructive criticism of the Cynics did not stop with its attack upon Greek institutions; it assailed the citadel of reason itself. Socrates had renounced physics; the Cynics considered that dialectic was equally unnecessary[86]. For the doctrine of general concepts and the exercise of classification they saw no use; they were strict Nominalists; horses they could see, but not ‘horsiness.’ In their ethics they held to the chief doctrines of Socrates, that ‘virtue is knowledge,’ ‘virtue can be taught’ and ‘no one willingly sins’; and they laid special stress on the ‘sufficiency’ (αὐτάρκεια) of virtue, which to produce happiness needs (according to them) nothing in addition to itself except a Socratic strength of character (Σωκρατικὴ ἰσχύς)[87]. But in reality they identified virtue with this will-power, and entirely dispensed with knowledge; virtue was to them a matter of instinct, not of scientific investigation. They appear therefore as the real founders of that ethical school which bases knowledge of the good on intuition, and which is at the present time, under ever-varying titles, the most influential of all. In practice, the virtue which specially appealed to the Cynics was that of ‘liberty,’ the claim of each man at every moment to do and say that which seems to him right, without regard to the will of sovereigns, the conventions of society, or the feelings of his neighbour; the claim made at all times by the governed against their rulers, whether these are just or unjust, reckless or farseeing.

Limits of Cynism.

53. Cynism is in morals what Atomism is in physics; a doctrine which exercises a widespread influence because of its extreme simplicity, which is extraordinarily effective within the range of ideas to which it is appropriate, and fatally mischievous outside that range. Nothing[50] is more alien from Cynism than what we now call cynicism; the Cynics were virtuous, warm-hearted, good-humoured, and pious. In their willing self-abnegation they equalled or surpassed the example set by Buddhist monks, but they were probably much inferior to them in the appreciation of natural beauty and the simple pleasures of life. As compared with their master Socrates, they lacked his genial presence, literary taste, and kindly tolerance; and they were intensely antipathetic to men of the type of Plato and Aristotle, whose whole life was bound up with pride in their country, their birth, and their literary studies[88].


54. The Cynics themselves seem to have made no effective use of literature to disseminate their views; but in the works of Xenophon of Athens (440-circ. 350 B.C.) we have a picture of Socrates drawn almost exactly from the Cynic standpoint. Xenophon was a close personal friend of Antisthenes, and thoroughly shared his dislike for intellectual subtleties. He was possessed of a taste for military adventure, and his interpretation of Socratic teaching entirely relieved him of any scruples which patriotism might have imposed upon him in this direction, leaving him free at one time to support the Persian prince Cyrus, and at another to join with the Spartan king Agesilaus against his own countrymen. From adventure he advanced to romance-writing, and his sketches of the expedition of the Ten Thousand Greeks (in which he took part in person) and of the life of Cyrus the Great have an interest which in no way depends upon their accuracy. The account which he gives of Socrates in his Memorabilia (ἀπομνημονεύματα) is not always to be depended upon; it is at the best a revelation of one side only of the historic philosopher; but it is to a large extent confirmed by what we learn from other sources, and is of special interest to us because of the great influence it exercised over Latin literature.

The Cyrenaics.

55. In the opposite direction Aristippus of Cyrene shared the sympathetic tone of Socrates, but could not adopt his moral earnestness or his zeal for the good of others. He refused altogether the earnest appeal of Socrates[51] that he should take part in politics. ‘It seems to me,’ he says, ‘to show much folly that a man who has quite enough to do to find the necessities of life for himself, should not be satisfied with this, but should take upon himself to provide his fellow-citizens with all that they want, and to answer for his action in the courts if he is not successful.’ Aristippus revolted altogether from the ascetic form in which the Cynics represented his master’s teaching, and held that the wise man, by self-restraint and liberal training, attained to the truest pleasure, and that such pleasure was the end of life. The Cyrenaics (as his followers were called) were the precursors in ethics of the school of Epicurus; and the bitter opposition which was later on to rage between Stoics and Epicureans was anticipated by the conflict between the Cynics and the Cyrenaics.

The Megarians.

56. The school of Euclides of Megara swerved suddenly from these ethical interests and devoted itself mainly to the problems of dialectic. From the Socratic practice of classification it arrived at the doctrine of the One being, which alone it held to be truly existent, and which it identified with the One God proclaimed by Xenophanes and his followers of the Eleatic school. To the Megaric school we are therefore chiefly indebted for the assertion of the philosophical principle of monism; the same school drew the necessary logical consequence, that evil is not in any real sense existent. From the Eleatics the Megarians further derived an interest in logical speculation of all kinds, and they were greatly occupied with the solution of fallacies: amongst the followers of this school we first meet with the puzzles of ‘the heap’ (Sorites), ‘the liar’ (Pseudomenos), and others upon which in later times Chrysippus and other Stoics sharpened their wits[89]. Diodorus the Megarian set out certain propositions with regard to the relation of the possible and the necessary which are of critical importance in connexion with the problem of free-will[90]. Finally Stilpo, who taught in Athens about 320 B.C., and who made a violent attack upon Plato’s theory of ideas, adopted an ethical[52] standpoint not unlike that of the Cynics[91], and counted amongst his pupils the future founder of Stoicism. Stilpo enjoyed amongst his contemporaries a boundless reputation; princes and peoples vied in doing him honour[92]; but we have scarcely any record of his teaching, and know him almost exclusively as one who contributed to form the mind of Zeno.

Advance of Philosophy.

57. With the school founded by Phaedo of Elis we are not concerned; the consideration of Plato and Aristotle and their respective followers we must leave to another chapter. We have already seen philosophy grow from being the interest of isolated theorists into a force which is gathering men in groups, and loosening the inherited bonds of city and class. So far its course has violently oscillated, both as regards its subject-matter and its principles. But its range is now becoming better defined, and in the period that is approaching we shall find determined attempts to reach a comprehensive solution of the problems presented to enquiring minds.


[1] ‘Stoicism was the earliest offspring of the union between the religious consciousness of the East and the intellectual culture of the West’ Lightfoot, Philippians, p. 274.

[2] Amongst the most important of these are Th. Gomperz’ Greek Thinkers (transl. by L. Magnus and G. G. Berry, London, 1901-5), and J. Adam’s Religious teachers of Greece (Gifford Lectures, Edinburgh, 1908).

[3] ‘Most clear air is spread about it cloudless, and the white light floats over it’ Hom. Od. 6, 46 (Butcher and Lang’s transl.). See also Adam, Religious Teachers, p. 31.

[4] ‘It is not possible for another god to go beyond, or make void, the purpose of Zeus’ Od. 5, 103.

[5] Il. 24, 308; Od. 14, 404.

[6] ib. 6, 188.

[7] Od. 8, 170.

[8] ib. 4, 237.

[9] ib. 20, 75.

[10] ib. 14, 84.

[11] ib. 17, 485.

[12] See below, § 325.

[13] So already Socrates understood it; Xen. Mem. i 3, 7.

[14] Hesiod, Works and Days, 252-255; and see below, § 254.

[15] ib. 289-292, quoted Xen. Mem. ii 1, 20.

[16] For instance, to Adam, Religious Teachers, Lect. V; Gomperz, Greek Thinkers, bk. i, ch. ii.

[17] Orphic Fragments, vi 10-12 (fr. 123 Abel).

[18] Adam, p. 114.

[19] Gomperz, Greek Thinkers, i pp. 46-48.

[20] ib. 48-56.

[21] ib. 56-59.

[22] The terms ‘monism’ and ‘dualism’ have recently become the watchwords of opposing armies of popular philosophers, especially in Germany. In this book they stand for two aspects of philosophical thought which are not necessarily irreconcileable. For without such contrasts as life and matter, universe and individual, right and wrong, thought is impossible; so far we are all ‘dualists.’ Yet as soon as we fix our attention on these contrasts, we find that they are not final, but point towards some kind of ultimate reconciliation; and to this extent all diligent thinkers tend to become ‘monists.’ Similarly the broad monistic principle ‘all things are one’ is meaningless apart from some kind of interpretation in dualistic language.

[23] See below, §§ 71, 195.

[24] Gomperz, i 127.

[25] This phrase does not express a belief in polytheism, see Adam, p. 204.

[26] Xen. apud Euseb. Praep. ev. xiii 13.

[27] Xenophanes apud Sext. math. ix 193.

[28] Id. apud Arist. Rhet. ii 23.

[29] On Xenophanes see Gomperz, i pp. 155-164; Adam, pp. 198-211.

[30] ‘Eyes and ears are bad witnesses to men, unless their souls have wit’ Heracl. Fr. 4 (Bywater), 107 (Diels).

[31] ‘Much learning does not teach sense, else it had taught Hesiod and Pythagoras, Xenophanes and Hecataeus’ Fr. 16 B, 40 D.

[32] ‘The Word is common, yet most men live as if they owned a private understanding’ Fr. 92 B, 2 D.

[33] ‘All things move and nothing remains’ Plato Crat. 402 A.

[34] ‘Listening not to me but to the Word it is reasonable to confess that all things are one’ Fr. 1 B, 50 D.

[35] ‘All things change with fire and fire with all things, as gold with goods and goods with gold’ Fr. 22 B, 90 D; ‘neither God nor man created this World-order (κόσμος), which is the same for all beings: but it has been and shall be an ever-living fire’ Fr. 20 B, 30 D.

[36] ‘The fire shall one day come, judge all things and condemn them’ Fr. 26 B, 66 D.

[37] ‘Whilst we live, our souls are dead and buried in us; but when we die, our souls revive and live’ Sext. Pyrrh. inst., iii 230 (Fr. 78 B, 88 D).

[38] ‘This Word is always existent’ Fr. 2 B, 1 D.

[39] ib.

[40] ‘There is but one wisdom, to understand the judgment by which all things are steered through all’ Fr. 19 B, 41 D.

[41] ‘Men fail in comprehension before they have heard the Word and at first even after they have heard it.... Other men do not observe what they do when they are awake, just as they forget what they do when asleep’ Fr. 2 B, 1 D.

[42] Fr. 91 B, 114 D.

[43] Adam, pp. 217-222.

[44] Gomperz, i p. 63.

[45] See Gladisch, Herakleitos und Zoroaster; Ueberweg, Grundriss, p. 39; above, § 13.

[45a] Gladisch traces this dualism in Heraclitus under the names of Zeus and Hades (see his p. 26, note 39).

[45b] Clem. Strom. i 14; Suidas, s. v. Herakleitos. (Gladisch, pp. 65, 75).

[46] Agam. 155-161, 167-171.

[47] Gomperz, ii p. 13.

[48] ‘Half professor and half journalist—this is the best formula that we can devise to characterise the sophist of the 5th century B.C.’ Gomperz, i p. 414.

[49] See below, §§ 124, 130, and 131.

[50] Gomperz, i p. 428.

[51] Xen. Mem. ii 1, 21 to 34.

[52] Gomperz, i p. 430.

[53] See below, § 89.

[54] Gomperz, i p. 433.

[55] ib. p. 437.

[56] Arist. Phys. viii 1; and see below, § 173.

[56a] Xen. Mem. i 1, 18.

[57] Plato, Apol. p. 32.

[58] Plato, Crito, p. 44 sqq.

[59] Gomperz, ii p. 48.

[60] Cic. Ac. i 4, 15; Tusc. disp. v 4, 10.

[61] Sen. Ep. 71, 7.

[62] Xen. Mem. iii 7.

[63] Xen. Mem. iv 6, 1; Epict. Disc. i 7, 11.

[64] Xen. Mem. iv 5, 12; Arist. Met. xiii 4.

[65] Xen. Mem. iv 7, 10. The Socratic μαντική must not be taken too seriously; it is only one of many tentative suggestions for explaining the process of reasoning, akin to our modern use of the term ‘genius’ in connexion with achievements in poetry and art.

[66] Plato, Phaedo, p. 97 c. The passage gives the impression of a real reminiscence; at the same time its recognition as such implies that Socrates was not consistent in disregarding all physical speculations.

[67] Xen. Mem. i 4, 4.

[68] ib. i 4, 2.

[69] ib. i 4, 9, and iv 3, 14; Cic. N. D. ii 6, 18.

[70] ib. i 1, 19.

[71] ib.

[72] Plato, Alc. ii 143 A.

[73] Xen. Mem. iii 9, 4 and 5.

[74] ib.

[75] οὐδεὶς ἑκὼν ἁμαρτάνει; see Plato Prot. p. 345 D, Apol. p. 25, Xen. Mem. iv 2, 20. No one is willingly ignorant, and no one does evil for any other reason than that he is ignorant of the good.

[76] In accepting generally the statements of Xenophon as to the religious and practical teaching of Socrates I am glad to find myself in agreement with Adam; Gomperz on the other hand is more sceptical. It should however always be realized that Socrates himself veiled his positive opinions under the form of suggestions and working hypotheses or ‘divinations.’

[77] Mem. i 1, 1.

[78] Grote, History of Greece, ch. lxviii. Gomperz gives a very dramatic representation of the attitude of an Athenian of the old school; Greek Thinkers, ii pp. 94-97.

[79] ‘ex illius [Socratis] variis et diversis et in omnem partem diffusis disputationibus alius aliud apprehenderat’ Cic. de Orat. iii 16, 61.

[80] παρὰ [Σωκράτους] τὸ καρτερικὸν λαβὼν καὶ τὸ ἀπαθὲς ζηλώσας Diog. L. vi 2.

[81] ‘Antisthenes ... populares deos multos, naturalem unum esse dicens’ Cic. N. D. i 13, 32.

[82] οὐδεὶς [θεὸν] εἰδέναι ἐξ εἰκόνος δύναται Clem. Alex. Protrept. p. 46 C.

[83] Epict. Disc. iii 22, 91.

[84] See below, § 303.

[85] Gomperz, ii p. 148, referring to Göttling’s book, Diogenes der Cyniker oder die Philosophie des griechischen Proletariats (Halle 1851).

[86] ἀρέσκει αὐτοῖς τὸν λογικὸν καὶ τὸν φυσικὸν τόπον περιαιρεῖν Diog. L. vi 103.

[87] ib. vi 11.

[88] See Plato, Theaet. 155 E, Soph. 251 B; Aristotle, Met. vii 3, 7.

[89] See below, § 163.

[90] See below, §§ 220 and 221.

[91] ‘hoc inter nos et illos [Stilbonem etc.] interest; noster sapiens vincit quidem incommodum omne, sed sentit; illorum ne sentit quidem’ Sen. Ep. 9, 3.

[92] Gomperz, ii p. 196.



Political changes of the 4th century.

58. Before a hundred years had passed since the death of Socrates, the face of the Greek world had been completely changed. Athens, Lacedaemon, Corinth, Thebes, which had been great powers, had sunk into comparative insignificance; their preeminence was gone, and even of their independence but little remained. Throughout Greece proper the Macedonian was master. But if the old-fashioned politician suffered a bitter disappointment, and the adherents of the old polytheism despaired of the future, there was rich compensation for the young and the hopeful. Petty wars between neighbouring cities, with their wearisome refrain ‘and the men they killed, and the women and children they enslaved[1],’ began to be less common; internal and still more murderous strife between bigoted oligarchs or democrats began to be checked from without. For the enlightened Greek a new world of enterprise had been opened up in the East. Alexander the Great had not only conquered Asia Minor, and established everywhere the Greek language and a Greek bureaucracy; he had opened the way to the far East, and pointed out India and even China as fields for the merchant and the colonizer. His work had been partly frustrated by the disorders that followed his death; but if achievement was thus hindered, hopes were not so quickly extinguished. These new hopes were not likely to be accompanied by any lasting regrets for the disappearance of ancient systems of government now regarded as effete or[54] ridiculous, or of inherited mythologies which were at every point in conflict with the moral sense[2].

East and West.

59. The same historic events which opened the East to Hellenic adventurers also made the way into Europe easy for the Oriental. As the soldier and the administrator travelled eastward, so the merchant and the philosopher pushed his way to the West. Not merely in Persia had ancient superstitions been swept away by reforming zeal; the Jews were now spreading from town to town the enthusiasm of a universalized religion which was ridding itself of bloody sacrifices; and, for the time at least, the humane philosophy of the Buddha was dominant in India, was being preached far and wide by self-sacrificing monks, and was inspiring the policy of great monarchies. We find it hard to picture the clashing of ideals, enthusiasms, and ambitions which was at this time taking place in all the great cities of the old world; but it is certain that in the universal excitement the old distinctions of Greek and barbarian, Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, free and slave, man and woman were everywhere becoming weakened, and community of thought and temperament were beginning to reunite on a new basis individuals who had broken loose from the ties of ancient society.

New schools of philosophy.

60. During this fourth century B.C. the foundations were laid of the four philosophical schools which were destined to vie one with another for the allegiance of the Roman world. The Socratic schools which we have already mentioned, those of the Cynics and Cyrenaics, did not perhaps altogether die out; in particular the Cynic missionaries appear to have been a social force until the second century B.C. But their intellectual basis was too narrow to admit of their effective transplantation to new soil. At the end of the century each gave place to a new school, which preserved the central doctrines of its predecessor. The Socratic paradoxes were handed on from the Cynics to the Stoics; the doctrine that pleasure is the good was accepted by Epicurus. Stoics and Epicureans disputed with a bitterness as yet unequalled, finding[55] themselves just as much opposed upon the subjects of logic and physics, which they introduced anew into popular philosophy, as upon the questions of ethics on which their antipathies were inherited. Between them stood two schools which had meanwhile established themselves. Plato, himself a companion of Socrates, founded the Academy at Athens about 380 B.C.; and if he did not impress his own teaching upon it with absolute fixity, still the school flourished under a succession of leaders, always proud of the fame of its founder, and rendering him at least a nominal allegiance. From the Academy branched off the school of the Peripatetics, founded by Plato’s pupil Aristotle about 350 B.C. After Aristotle’s death this school gravitated towards the Academics, and in later centuries there seemed little difference, if any, between the two. If Stoicism may be called the child of Cynism, it largely drew nourishment from these two schools and their founders. Some account of the teaching of Plato and Aristotle is therefore needed here, partly because of the great importance of both in the general history of philosophy, partly because of their direct influence upon the subject of this book. On account of the much greater prominence of the Academy in the later history we shall often use this term to refer to the general teaching of the two allied schools.


61. Of all the companions of Socrates far the most famous is Plato of Athens (427-347 B.C.), the founder of the philosophical association known as the ‘Academy.’ In the general judgment of lovers of Greek letters he stands out not merely as a great master of Attic prose style, but also as the ablest exponent of the true mind of Socrates[3], and the most brilliant light of Greek philosophy[4]. On the first point this judgment stands unchallenged; for delicate and good-natured wit, felicity of illustration and suggestiveness of thought the Platonic dialogues are unrivalled. But it is only in his earlier writings that we can accept Plato as a representative[56] of Socrates; after the death of his master he travelled for many years in Egypt, Lower Italy, and Sicily, and absorbed in particular much of the teaching of the Pythagoreans. The theory of ‘ideas,’ the special characteristic of Plato’s later work, is not strictly Socratic. Neither, we must add, is it of first-rate importance in the history of human thought; from our point of view it lies apart from the main current both of speculation and of practice. It was a still-born theory, not accepted even by Plato’s successors in the control of the Academy[5]. We are therefore very little concerned with the direct teaching of Plato; but all the more readily it should be acknowledged that the Stoics were often indebted to him for help in the treatment of important details, and that the Platonic attitude remained for them a factor of which they needed continuously to take account.

Plato’s realism.

62. A striking feature of the Platonic dialogues is that their results are usually negative. First the opinions of the crowd, then those of Socrates’ contemporaries the ‘sophists’ and of the other Socratic schools are subjected to a cross-examination, under which they are one and all shewn to be unreasonable. This cross-examination is quite in the Socratic spirit, and is before all things a mental gymnastic, training the dialectician to observe with keener eye and to discuss with apter tongue than his fellows. Gradually there emerges from a mass of doubts something like a positive theory that Plato is prepared to adopt. The true reasoning is that of induction from the particular to the general, from the individual to the class. In the class name we come upon the true being of the individual, and by a right definition of it we discern what each thing really is. The ‘idea,’ which corresponds to the class name, is alone really existent; the individual is a more or less imperfect imitation of it (μίμησις). In this way Plato found what seemed to him a solution of a difficulty which Socrates hardly felt, that of explaining the participation (μέθεξις) of[57] the particular in the general (ὑπόθεσις or ἰδέα). Thus where ordinary men see ‘horses,’ and Antisthenes holds that they are right, Plato sees ‘horsiness,’ or the idea of ‘horse.’ In the language of medieval philosophy Plato is a realist, that is, one who holds that our Ideas are more than what men mean when they say ‘mere ideas’; that they are Realities, and have their being in a truly existing world; and that in knowing them we know what is. But just as Plato holds that general conceptions are alone true and real, so he necessarily maintains that objects perceivable by the senses are only half-real, and that the ordinary man lives in a world of illusions. Thus the thoughts of the philosopher are separated by an abyss from the world in which men live and die.

God and the soul.

63. Upon the basis of the individual ‘ideas’ Plato builds up by a process of classification and induction higher and smaller classes of ideas, until we begin to see the vision of a single idea, a class which includes all classes, a supreme ‘being’ from which all being is derived. This highest idea is variously suggested by the names ‘the Good,’ ‘the Beautiful,’ ‘the One.’ By a sudden transformation it becomes the Creator (δημιουργός) of the universe. Containing in itself all being, it needs for its operation some kind of formless and inert matter; for this the name ἄπειρον, ‘the unlimited,’ is taken from Anaximander. The whole created universe may be considered as the joint production of the ‘idea’ and the ‘unlimited’; and the cosmology of Anaxagoras, ‘all things were together, and mind came and ordered them,’ is substantially justified. The world thus created is both good and beautiful, for it is made by a good Creator on the best of patterns.

The human soul is of triple nature. The highest part, the rational soul (τὸ λογιστικόν), is seated in the head; the emotional soul (τὸ θυμοειδές) in the heart; the appetitive soul (τὸ ἐπιθυμητικόν) in the belly. Over these two lower souls the reasoning part should hold control, as a driver over two unruly steeds[6]. The rational soul has existed before birth, and may hope for immortality, for it is knit up with the idea of ‘being.’ Ultimately[58] it may even attain to perfection, if it is purified as by fire from baser elements that have attached themselves to it.

Ethics and Politics.

64. Plato himself does not formulate an ethical ideal of the same precision that his successors used, but we infer from his works a goal towards which he points. Thus the ethical end for each man is the greatest possible participation in the idea of the good, the closest attainable imitation of the deity. The virtue of each part of the human soul lies in the fit performance of its proper work; that of the reasoning soul is Wisdom (σοφία); of the emotional soul Courage (ἀνδρεία); of the appetitive soul Soberness (σοφροσύνη). Over all (it is hinted rather than stated) rules the supreme virtue of Justice (δικαιοσύνη), assigning to each part its proper function. Thus the four cardinal virtues are deduced as a practical application from the Platonic psychology. The high position assigned to Justice leads up to the practical doctrine of Moderation (μετριότης); even the virtues are restricted both in their intensity and in their spheres of work, and if any virtue passes its proper limit it becomes changed into the vice that borders on it. Thus the ideal of practical life is the ‘moderate man,’ calm, considerate, and self-respecting, touched with a warm flow of feeling, but never carried away into excitement; and even this ideal is strictly subordinate to that of the life of philosophic contemplation.

The ideal State is modelled on the individual man. To the three parts of the soul correspond three classes of citizens; the rulers, whose virtue is Wisdom; the guardians, on whom Courage is incumbent; the labourers and tradesmen, who owe the State Soberness and obedience. Thus the political system to which Plato leans is that of an Aristocracy; for the middle class in his state has only an executive part in the government, and the lower orders are entirely excluded from it.


65. By far the greatest of Plato’s pupils was Aristotle of Stagira (384-322 B.C.), who introduced into philosophy, now convulsed by the disputes of the disciples of Socrates, a spirit of reconciliation. From his point of view the various contentions are not so much erroneous as[59] defective. To attain the truth we need first to collect the various opinions that are commonly held, and then to seek the reconciling formula of which each one is a partial statement.

The ten categories.

66. In his investigation Aristotle did not altogether break with Plato’s theory of ideas, but brought them from a transcendental world into touch with common life. He held fast to the method of induction (ἐπαγωγή) from the particular to the general, and agreed that we reach the true nature of each thing when we have determined the class-conception. But the class-conception or idea (ἰδέα), though the most real existence, does not exist independently, but only in and through the particulars, which compose the class. Having thus come to see that there are gradations of existence, we need to inquire what these are; and to classify the various kinds of judgment with regard to which we inquire whether they are true or false. Now by observation we find that judgments or predications have ten different shapes, to which therefore there must correspond ten kinds of existence. These are the well-known ‘categories’ of Aristotle, and are as follows:

Aristotle thus reinstates the credit of the common man; he it is who possesses the substance of truth and gives it habitual expression by speech, even roughly indicating the various kinds of existence by different forms of words. It is now indicated that a study of grammar is required as the foundation of logic.

Aristotle also greatly advanced the study of that kind of reasoning which proceeds from the general to the particular, and[60] which is best expressed in terms of the ‘syllogism’ (συλλογισμός), of which he defined the various forms.

The four causes.

67. In the study of physics Aristotle picks up the thread which Socrates had dropped deliberately, that is, the teaching of the Ionic philosophers. Either directly from Empedocles, or from a consensus of opinion now fairly established, he accepted the doctrine of the four elements (στοιχεῖα), earth, water, air, and fire; but to these he added a fifth (πεμπτὸν στοιχεῖον, quinta essentia), the aether, which fills the celestial spaces. Behind this analysis lies the more important problem of cosmology, the question how this world comes to be. Collecting once more the opinions commonly held, Aristotle concludes that four questions are usually asked, and that in them the search is being made for four ‘causes,’ which will solve the respective questions. The four causes are:

Reviewing these ‘causes’ Aristotle concludes that the first, third, and fourth are ultimately one, the Creator containing in his own nature both the plan and the purpose of his work[8]. The solution is therefore dualistic, and agrees substantially with that of Plato; the ultimate existences are (i) an informing power, and (ii) matter that has the potentiality of accepting form.

In consequence of this dualism of Aristotle the term ‘matter’ (ὕλη, materia) has ever since possessed associations which did not belong to it in the time of the hylozoists. Matter now begins to suggest something lifeless, inert, and unintelligent; and to be sharply contrasted not only with such conceptions as ‘God’ and ‘mind,’ but also with motion and force. For this reason the Stoics in reintroducing monism preferred a new term, as we shall see below[9].


The microcosm.

68. What God is to the universe, that the soul is to the body, which is a ‘little universe[10].’ But the reasoning part of the soul only is entirely distinct; this is of divine nature, and has entered the body from without; it is at once its formative principle, its plan, and its end. The lower parts of the soul are knit up with the body, and must perish with it. So far Aristotle’s teaching differs little from that of Plato; but a new point of view is introduced when he speaks of the soul as subject to ‘diseases’ (παθήματα), and thus assigns to the practical philosopher a social function as the comrade of the physician. Amongst the diseases he specially names Pity and Fear, which assail the emotional part of the soul. Their cure is found in ‘purging’ (κάθαρσις), that is to say in their complete expulsion from the soul, as reason and circumstances may require; but Aristotle by no means considers that the analogy between body and soul is complete, or that the emotions should always be regarded as injurious[11].

Ethics and Politics.

69. In setting forth an ideal for human activity Aristotle conceives that other philosophers have differed more in words than in substance, and he hopes to reconcile them through the new term ‘blessedness’ (εὐδαιμονία). This blessedness is attained when the soul is actively employed in a virtuous way, and when it is so circumstanced that it commands the instruments of such action, that is, in a life which is adequately furnished. On such activity pleasure must assuredly attend, and it is therefore needless to seek it of set purpose. Further, virtue appears personified in the ‘true gentleman’ (καλὸς κἀγαθός), who ever avoids vicious extremes, and finds his highest satisfaction in pure contemplation, just as the Creator himself lives to contemplate the world he has produced[12].


In politics Aristotle can find ground for approving in turn of monarchy, oligarchy, and democracy, according to the circumstances of each state. We cannot however but feel that his sympathies point most towards monarchy, and that his personal association with Alexander the Great was in full harmony with his inmost convictions. As a means of government he advocates before all things the education of the young.

Social prepossessions.

70. The philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, comprehensive in their range, brilliant and varied in their colouring, nevertheless appeal effectively only to a limited circle. Socrates had been the companion of rich and poor alike; Plato and Aristotle addressed themselves to men of wealth, position, and taste. Their sympathies appear clearly in their political systems, in which the sovereign or the aristocracy is considered fit to play a part, whilst the many are practically excluded from the commonwealth, sometimes as a harmless flock which needs kindly shepherding, and at other times as a dangerous crowd which must be deceived or enslaved for its own good. These prepossessions, which we shall find reappearing within the Stoic system, appear to weaken the practical forcefulness of both philosophies. In the ideal character the Socratic ‘force’ has disappeared, and ‘self-restraint’ alone is the standard of virtue; the just man moves quietly and conventionally through life, perhaps escaping blame, but hardly achieving distinction. In resuming the study of ontology, which Socrates had treated as a ‘mist from Ionia,’ bright fancies had been elaborated rather than dominating conceptions; the deity of Aristotle seems but a faint reflex of the god of Socrates and the Cynics, and neither the ‘idea’ of Plato or the ‘matter’ of Aristotle is so well fitted for the world’s hard work as the atoms of Leucippus and Democritus. The teachers who succeeded to the control of the two schools inclined more and more to engross themselves in special studies, and to leave on one side the great controversial problems.

The Academics.

71. The followers of Plato were known as the ‘Academics’: amongst them we must distinguish between the members of the ‘old Academy,’ as Cicero terms[63] them[13], and those who followed the innovations of Arcesilaus. The old Academy chiefly developed the ethical side of Plato’s teaching, finding that the path of virtue is indicated by the natural capacities of the individual. Thus Xenocrates of Chalcedon (396-314 B.C.) taught that each man’s happiness resulted from the virtue proper to him (οἰκεία ἀρετή)[14]; whilst Polemo of Athens (head of the school 314-270 B.C.) is said by Cicero to have defined it as consisting in ‘virtuous living, aided by those advantages to which nature first draws us,’ thereby practically adopting the standard of Aristotle[15]. The teaching of Polemo had a direct influence upon that of Zeno the founder of Stoicism.

But with the first successes of Stoicism the Academy revived its dialectical position, in strong opposition to the dogmatism of the new school. Arcesilaus of Pitane in Aeolia (315-240 B.C.) revived the Socratic cross-examination, always opposing himself to any theory that might be propounded to him, and drawing the conclusion that truth could never be certainly known[16]. Life must therefore be guided by considerations of probability, and the ethical standard is that ‘of which a reasonable defence may be made[17].’ This sceptical attitude was carried still further by Carneades of Cyrene (214-129 B.C.), whose acute criticism told upon the Stoic leaders of his time, and forced them to abandon some of their most important positions. From this time a reconciliation between the two schools set in[18].

The Peripatetics.

72. The members of the Peripatetic school founded by Aristotle are of less importance to us. The Romans found little difference between their teaching[64] and that of the earlier Academy. Cicero mentions that the Stoic Panaetius was a keen student of two of the pupils of Aristotle, Theophrastus (his successor as head of the Peripatetic school) and Dicaearchus[19]; amongst later teachers in whose views he is interested he names Hieronymus, who held that the supreme good was freedom from pain[20]; Callipho, who combined virtue with pleasure, and Diodorus who combined it with freedom from pain[21]; and amongst his contemporaries Staseas of Naples, who stated the same doctrines in a slightly different form[22], and Cratippus, whom he selected as a teacher for his own son[23]. It was a common complaint of these teachers that the Stoics had stolen their doctrines wholesale, and (as is the way with thieves) had altered the names only[24]. All these writers however agree in denying the doctrine which Zeno accepted from the Cynics that ‘virtue is sufficient for happiness,’ and lay stress upon the supply of external goods (χορηγία) as needed to admit of the active exercise of virtue. They were diligent students of the written works of their founder, and thus opened the way for the work of erudition and interpretation which found its centre in Alexandria in a later period.


73. Amidst the conflict of these schools Zeno grew up. Born in Citium on the island of Cyprus in 336 B.C., in the same year in which Alexander became king of Macedon, he heard as a boy of the Greek conquest of the East, and was only 13 years of age when its course was checked by the death of Alexander. Of the town of Citium the inhabitants were partly Greek, partly Phoenician; and Zeno, whether or not he was of Phoenician blood, certainly derived[65] from his environment something of the character of the enterprising and much-travelled Phoenician nation, and imparted this trait to the school which he founded. He was nicknamed by his contemporaries ‘the Phoenician,’ and the title clung to his followers[25]. His father was a merchant of purple, and often travelled in the one direction to Tyre and Sidon, in the other as far as Athens, whence he brought back a number of ‘Socratic books,’ which were eagerly read by the young Zeno, and in time attracted him to the famous Greek city[26]. We may presume that when he first came to Athens he intended to carry further his studies without abandoning his calling; but when news reached him of the wreck of the ship which carried all his goods, he welcomed it as a call to devote himself entirely to philosophy[27]. His first step in Athens was to seek out the man who best represented the character of Socrates, as represented in Xenophon’s Memoirs; and it is said that a bookseller accordingly pointed him to Crates of Thebes[28], the pupil and (it would seem) the successor of Diogenes as acknowledged head of the Cynic school.

Zeno joins the Cynics.

74. Our authorities busy themselves chiefly with narrating the eccentricities of Crates, who wore warm clothing in summer and rags in winter, entered the theatre as the audience were coming out, and drank water instead of wine. But doubtless, like his predecessors in the Cynic school, he was a man of the true Socratic character, who had trained himself to bear hunger and thirst, heat and cold, flattery and abuse. His life and wisdom won him the love of the high-born Hipparchia, who turned from her wealthy and noble suitors, choosing instead the poverty of Crates, who had abandoned all his possessions. In his company she went from house to house, knocking at all doors in turn, sometimes admonishing the inmates of their sins, sometimes sharing with them their meals[29].[66] In such a life Zeno recognised the forcefulness of Socrates, and in the dogmas of the Cynic school he reached the foundation on which that life was built. From that foundation neither Zeno nor his true followers ever departed, and thus Stoicism embodied and spread the fundamental dogmas of Cynism, that the individual alone is really existent, that virtue is the supreme good, and that the wise man, though a beggar, is truly a king.

Zeno’s Republic.

75. Whilst still an adherent of the Cynic school[30], Zeno wrote his Πολιτεία or Republic, which is evidently an attack on Plato’s work with the same title[31]. If this work does not reveal to us the fully developed philosopher, it at least shews us better than any other evidence what the man Zeno was. His ideal was the establishment of a perfect State, a completion of the work in which Alexander had failed; and he found a starting-point in a treatise by Antisthenes on the same subject. The ideal State must embrace the whole world, so that a man no longer says, ‘I am of Athens,’ or ‘of Sidon,’ but ‘I am a citizen of the world[32].’ Its laws must be those which are prescribed by nature, not by convention. It will have no images or temples, for these are unworthy of the nature of the deity; no sacrifices, because he cannot be pleased by costly gifts; no law-courts, for its citizens will do one another no harm; no statues, for the virtues of its inhabitants will be its adornment[33]; no gymnasia, for its youth must not waste their time in idle exercises[34].

The people will not be divided into classes (and here Plato’s Republic is contradicted), for all alike will be wise men[35]; nor will men and women be clothed differently, or shamefacedly hide any part of their bodies[36]. No man will speak of a woman as his property, for women will belong to the community only[37]. As for the dead, men will not trouble whether they bury them[67] (as the Greeks), burn them (as the Indians), or give them to the birds (as the Persians); for it matters not at all what happens to men’s dead bodies[38], but whether their souls shall reach the abodes of the blest, or need hereafter to be purged by fire from the foulness they have contracted through contact with the body[39]. To conclude, Love shall be master throughout the State, being as it were a God cooperating for the good of the whole[40]; and the wise man shall be a citizen in it, not a missionary, and shall be surrounded with wife and children[41].

Zeno seeks knowledge.

76. Zeno, after writing his Republic, took up a position more independent of the Cynics. He could not, perhaps, avoid noticing that the coming of his model Kingdom was hindered by the narrowmindedness of the philosophers, their disagreement one with another, and their lack of clear proofs for their dogmas. He began to realize that the study of dialectics and physics was of more importance than his Cynic teachers would allow; and he seems to have conceived the idea of uniting the Socratic schools. He became eager to learn from all sources, and turned first to Stilpo, who then represented the Megarian school[42]. Crates, we are told, tried to drag him back from Stilpo by force; to which Zeno retorted that argument would be more to the point[43]. From this time he no longer restricted his outlook to force of character, but sought also for argumentative power and well ascertained knowledge. The foundations of his state must be surely laid, not upon the changing tide of opinion, but on the rock of knowledge. That a wise man should hesitate, change his views, withdraw his advice, he felt would be a bitter reproach[44]. If indeed virtue, the supreme good, is knowledge, must it not follow that knowledge is within the reach of man?


Zeno’s theory of knowledge.

77. The chief cause of error, Zeno found, lay in hasty assertion; and this he held was a fault not so much of the intellect as of the will. In the simplest case the senses present to the mind a ‘picture’ (φαντασία, visum), carrying with it the suggestion of a statement (e.g. ‘that is a horse’). But it is for the man to consider well whether this suggestion is true, and only to give his ‘assent’ (συγκατάθεσις, adsensus) when he is so assured. Assent is an act of the will, and therefore in our power. Of a picture to which he has given his assent the wise man should retain a firm hold; it then becomes an item of ‘comprehension’ (φαντασία καταληπτική, comprehensio), and may be stored in the memory, thus preparing the way for further acquisitions of knowledge, which in the end combine in ‘scientific knowledge’ (ἐπιστήμη, scientia).

This theory is little more than an exhortation against the prevailing error of hasty thought (δόξα, opinio); but it made a very deep impression, especially as enforced by Zeno’s gestures. He stretched out his fingers and shewed the open palm, saying ‘Such is a picture.’ He partially contracted his fingers, and said ‘This is assent.’ Making a closed fist, he said ‘This is comprehension.’ Then closing in the left hand over the right he pressed his fist tight, and said ‘This is science, and only the wise man can attain to it[45].’

We have no reason to suppose that this theory was in any way suggested by Stilpo, from whom however Zeno probably learnt to attach importance to the formal part of reasoning, such as ‘definition’ and the use of the syllogism. With Stilpo he shared an aversion to the Platonic theory of ideas, maintaining that ideas are by no means realities but have only a ‘kind of existence’ in our minds, or (as we should call it to-day) a ‘subjective existence[46].’


Zeno studies under Polemo.

78. In becoming in turn a listener to Polemo, Zeno, we may imagine, entered a new world. He left behind the rough manners, the stinging retorts, and the narrow culture of the Cynics and Eristics[47], to sit with other intelligent students[48] at the feet of a man of cultured manners[49] and wide reading, who to a love for Homer and Sophocles[50] had, we must suppose, added an intimate knowledge of the works of Plato and Aristotle, was himself a great writer[51], and yet consistently taught that not learning, but a natural and healthy life was the end to be attained. That Zeno profited much from his studies under Polemo we may conjecture from Polemo’s good-natured complaint, ‘I see well what you are after: you break down my garden wall and steal my teaching, which you dress in Phoenician clothes[52].’ From this time it became a conventional complaint that Stoic doctrine was stolen from that of the Academics: yet the sharp conflict between the two schools shews that this cannot apply to essentials. But in two important matters at least Zeno must have been indebted to Academic teaching. This school had elaborated the doctrine of Anaxagoras, which so attracted Socrates, that the world began with the working of mind upon unordered matter. So too, according to all our authorities, Zeno taught that there are two beginnings, the active which is identified with the deity or Logos, and the passive which is inert matter, or substance without quality[53]. This doctrine appears to pledge Zeno to a dualistic view of the universe.

‘Soul is body.’

79. On the other hand the Platonic teaching on the soul was reversed by Zeno. He denied the opposition between soul and body. ‘Soul is Breath[54],’ he taught, and ‘soul is body[55].’ With Plato’s threefold division of the soul he would have nothing to do; rather he maintained[70] that the soul has eight parts[56], each displaying itself in a distinct power or capacity, whilst all of them are qualities or operations of one soul in various relations[57]. In this part of his philosophy Zeno appears as a strong monist, and his debt to the Platonists is necessarily restricted to details.

Zeno studies Heraclitus.

80. It would seem then that Zeno after seeking for philosophic safety for some twenty years in one harbour after another had so far made shipwreck. But from this shipwreck of his intellectual hopes he could afterwards count the beginning of a fair voyage[58]. As he eagerly discussed with his younger fellow-student Arcesilaus the teaching of their master Polemon, he took courage to point out its weak points[59], and began to quote in his own defence not only his previous teachers Crates and Stilpo, but also the works of Heraclitus[60]. He thus broke down the barrier which Socrates had set up against the Ionic philosophers. From Heraclitus Zeno drew two doctrines of first-rate importance; the first, that of the eternal fire[61] and its mutation into the elements in turn[62]; the second (already referred to) that of the Logos[63]. It is evident that the Heraclitean doctrine of fire breaks down the distinction between God and the world, active and passive, soul and body; and is therefore inconsistent with the dualism which Zeno had[71] partly borrowed from Plato. It is not clear whether Zeno attained to clearness on this point; but in the general teaching of the Stoics the monistic doctrine prevailed[64]. Hence God is not separate from body, but is himself body in its purest form[65]. The Logos or divine reason is the power which pervades and gives shape to the universe[66]; and this Logos is identical with the deity, that is with the primitive and creative Fire[67]. The Logos (ὀρθὸς λόγος, vera ratio) brings into harmony the parts of philosophy; for it is also on the one hand the guide to right reasoning[68]; on the other hand the law which prescribes what is right for the State and for the individual[69].

Zeno opens his school.

81. When Zeno definitely accepted the teaching of Heraclitus, he felt bound to break finally with the school of Polemo, and he founded soon after 300 B.C. a school of his own, which was rapidly crowded. His followers were at first called Zenonians, but afterwards Stoics, from the ‘picture porch’ (so called because it was decorated with paintings by Polygnotus) in which he delivered his lectures. He now applied himself afresh to the problem of ethics. Whilst still adhering to the Cynic views that ‘virtue is the only good,’ and that ‘example is more potent than precept,’ he entirely rejected the intuitional basis which the Cynics had accepted, deciding in favour of the claims of reason. He found his ideal in ‘consistency’ (ὁμολογία, convenientia)[70]; as the Logos or Word rules in the universe, so should it also in the individual. Those who live by a single and harmonious principle possess[72] divine favour and an even flow of life[71]; those that follow conflicting practices are ill-starred[72]. In this consistency there is found virtue, and (here again he follows the Cynics) virtue is sufficient for happiness[73], and has no need of any external support.

His theory of virtue.

82. But whilst the virtue of the Cynics is something detached and self-contained, and is ‘natural’ only in the sense that it is not determined by custom or authority, that of Zeno is bound up with the whole scheme of the universe. For the universe puts before men certain things, which though rightly named ‘indifferent’ by the Cynics, and wrongly named ‘good’ by the Academics, have yet a certain value (ἀξία, aestimatio), and are a natural goal for men’s actions[74]. Such are health, prosperity, good name, and other things which the Academics named ‘things according to nature’ (τὰ κατὰ φύσιν). These Zeno took over, not as a part of his theory of virtue, but as the basis of it[75]; and for things having value introduced the term ‘of high degree’ (προηγμένα), and for their opposites the term ‘of low degree’ (ἀποπροηγμένα), these terms being borrowed from court life. Thus virtue alone is queen, and all things naturally desired are subject to her command[76]. The end of life is therefore to live consistently, keeping in view the aims set before us by nature, or shortly, to live ‘consistently with nature.’ Our authorities do not agree as to whether Zeno or Cleanthes was the first to use this phrase[77]; but there can be no doubt that the doctrine is that of Zeno, that it is a fundamental part of the Stoic system, and that it was maintained unaltered by all orthodox Stoics. On the other hand the[73] Academics and Peripatetics ridiculed these new and barbarous terms προηγμένα and ἀποπροηγμένα, and their view has generally been supported both in ancient and modern times[78]. We cannot however question the right of Zeno to reserve a special term for that which is morally good; he was in fact feeling his way towards the position, still imperfectly recognized, that the language of common life is inadequate to the exact expression of philosophic principles[79].

Zeno’s syllogisms.

83. In expounding his system Zeno made much use of the syllogism, thereby laying the foundations of a new style of oratory, consisting of short and pointed clauses, which became a characteristic of his school[80]. He no doubt regarded this form as a sure method of attaining truth; but even at the present day the principle that truth can only be reached from facts and not from words is not everywhere admitted. The syllogisms of Zeno have all their weak points, and as a rule the term which is common to the major and minor premisses suffers a shift of meaning. These syllogisms can no longer convince us, and even in antiquity they were severely criticized. But they are excellent aids to the memory, and so serve the same end as the catechisms of the Reformation period. Amongst the syllogisms attributed to Zeno are these: ‘That which has reason is better than that which has not reason; but nothing is better than the universe; therefore the universe has reason[81].’ ‘No one trusts a secret to a drunken man; but one trusts a secret to a good man; therefore a good man will not be drunken[82].’ ‘No evil is accompanied by glory; but death is accompanied by glory; therefore death is no evil[83].’ Such syllogisms were embedded in the numerous works of Zeno, of[74] which many were certainly extant as late as the time of Epictetus[84].

Epicurus and Arcesilaus.

84. At the very time when Zeno was elaborating the doctrines of the Porch, another school of equal eminence was established at Athens by Epicurus (341-270 B.C.) in his Gardens. Epicurus combined the ethical principle of the Cyrenaics, that pleasure is the end of life, with the atomistic philosophy of Democritus; he had no respect for the study of dialectic, but placed the criterion of truth in the observations of the senses, leaving little room for the participation of mind or will. Thus in every part of philosophy his teaching was opposed to that of Zeno, and the two schools during their whole existence were in the sharpest conflict. We may nevertheless notice some points of contact between them. Both founded, or conceived that they founded their ethical doctrine upon physical proofs; that is, both maintained that the end of life which they put forward was that prescribed by natural law. As a consequence, they agreed in removing the barrier which Socrates had set up against the pursuit of natural science. Both again were positive teachers, or (in the language of the ancients) propounders of dogmas; and here they came into conflict with the Academic school, which maintained, and was soon about to emphasize, the critical spirit of Socrates and Plato. For in the last years of Zeno’s life his old fellow-pupil Arcesilaus became head of the Academic school (270 B.C.), and at once directed his teaching against Zeno’s theory of knowledge[85]. Following the practice of Socrates and of Plato’s dialogues, he argued against every point of view presented, and concluded that certain truth could not be known by man[86]. He pressed Zeno closely as to his definition of ‘comprehension,’ and induced him to add a clause which, in the opinion of his opponent, shewed the worthlessness of the whole[75] doctrine[87]. Thus was raised the question of the κριτήριον or test of truth, which for at least a century to come sharply divided the schools[88].

Zeno at Athens.

85. The conflict between these three schools, which from this time on greatly surpassed all others in importance, did not embitter the political life of Athens. The citizens watched with amusement the competition of the schools for numbers and influence, and drew their profit from the crowds of foreigners who were drawn to Athens by its growing fame as a centre of adult education. To the heads of the schools they were ready to pay every mark of respect. With Zeno they deposited the keys of their gates, and they awarded him during his lifetime a gold crown and a bronze statue. His fame spread abroad, and those of his fellow-citizens of Citium who were then resident at Sidon claimed a share in it. In his old age the high-minded Antigonus Gonatas (who occupied the throne of Macedonia with varying fortune from 278 to 239 B.C.) looked to him for advice and help. But no offers of public employment could draw Zeno himself from his simple life and the young companions who surrounded him: like Socrates, he thought that he could best serve the State by sending out others to take part in its duties[89]. He died in the year 264 B.C.[90], having been engaged in teaching for more than 30 years from the time when he ‘discovered the truth[91].’

Honours paid to him.

86. The vote which the Athenians passed in honour of Zeno, shortly before his death, deserves record by its contrast with that by which their predecessors had condemned Socrates. It ran somewhat as follows:


‘Whereas Zeno the son of Mnaseas from Citium has spent many years in this city in the pursuit of philosophy; and has been throughout a good man in all respects; and has encouraged the young men who resorted to him in virtue and temperance, and has sped them on the right path; and has made his own life an example to all men, for it has been consistent with the teaching he has set forth;

Now it seems good to the people of Athens to commend Zeno the son of Mnaseas from Citium, and to crown him with a golden crown (in accordance with the law) for his virtue and temperance, and to build him a tomb on the Ceramicus at the public expense. And the people shall elect five Athenian citizens to provide for the making of the crown and the building of the tomb. And the town clerk shall engrave this vote on two pillars, and shall set up one in the Academy, and one in the Lyceum. And the treasurer shall make due allotment of the expense, that all men may see that the people of Athens honours good men both in their life time and after their death[92].’

We have no reason to doubt the sincerity of this tribute. It is true that all the charges brought against Socrates hold even more forcibly as against Zeno. But the spirit of political and religious independence was now dead, and the advantage of the philosophical schools to the fame and business interests of the city had become clearer; so that nothing prevented any longer the open recognition of Zeno’s virtues and eminence. Who will may also read in the decree a belated mark of respect to the memory of Socrates.

Zeno’s breadth of view.

87. In this sketch of the life of Zeno no attempt has been made to give a complete view of his philosophy; but a few landmarks have been indicated, by which it may be possible to distinguish which parts of it were his own, which were taken over from others, and how all were gradually combined in one whole. Zeno had not the kind of originality which begins by assuming a general principle, and then explains all things human and divine by deductions from it. Instead of this he gathered together (as Aristotle had done before, but with a very different bias) what seemed most sound and illuminating in the teaching of all the schools which surrounded him. He did this in a positive spirit, feeling assured that truth exists and is discernible, and must be consistent in all its parts. We seem unable to say that in his writings he attained to this consistency,[77] but at least he worked steadily towards it. The effort for consistency led him in the direction of monistic principle, though his points of departure both in physics and in ethics are dualistic. But the teaching of Zeno does not lend itself to that kind of study which assigns all new facts to compartments of thought ready labelled in advance, nor can it be summarized by any of the technical terms which are in use in modern philosophical thought. Enough has perhaps been said to shew that, great as was the debt of Zeno to his predecessors, he was no mere imitator or plagiarist; the history of the following centuries will shew that he had in some sense touched the pulses of human life more truly than any of his contemporaries.


[1] Thucydides, passim.

[2] Mahaffy, Greek Life and Thought, ch. 1.

[3] ‘Plato combined the various elements, the, so to speak, prismatically broken rays of the Socratic spirit in a new, higher, and richer unity’ Ueberweg, Eng. transl. i p. 89.

[4] ‘The philosophy of Greece reached its highest point in Plato and Aristotle’ Zeller, Stoics etc., p. 11. ‘The bloom of Greek philosophy was short lived’ ib. p. 10.

[5] The phrases ‘cum Platone errare,’ ‘amicus Plato, magis amica veritas’ agree in expressing the general incredulity with which Platonism was received in the ancient world. In our own days an ill-balanced sympathy for Platonic dogma is often a serious hindrance to philosophic progress.

[6] See further, § 284.

[7] See below, § 179.

[8] Aristotle, Physics, ii 7.

[9] See below, § 173.

[10] εἰ δ’ ἐν ζῴῳ τοῦτο δυνατὸν γενέσθαι, τί κωλύει τὸ αὐτὸ συμβῆναι καὶ κατὰ τὸ πᾶν; εἰ γὰρ ἐν μικρῷ κόσμῳ γίνεται, καὶ ἐν μεγάλῳ Ar. Phys. viii 2, 252 b.

[11] See Ueberweg’s note, i (Eng. trans., pp. 178-180; tenth German edition, pp. 238-240), and below, § 362.

[12] ‘vitae autem degendae ratio maxime quidem illis [Peripateticis] placuit quieta, in contemplatione et cognitione posita rerum; quae quia deorum erat vitae simillima, sapiente visa est dignissima’ Cic. Fin. v 4, 11.

[13] See note 15, below.

[14] Clem. Strom. ii p. 419 a.

[15] ‘honeste autem vivere, fruentem rebus eis, quas primas homini natura conciliet, et vetus Academia censuit (ut indicant scripta Polemonis), et Aristoteles eiusque amici huc proxime videntur accedere’ Cic. Ac. ii 42, 131. Here Prof. J. S. Reid suggests that Polemo may merely have used the phrase κατὰ φύσιν ζῆν, as opposed to κατὰ θέσιν (conventionally).

[16] ‘quem [sc. Arcesilan] ferunt ... primum instituisse, non quid ipse sentiret ostendere, sed contra id, quod quisque se sentire dixisset, disputare’ Cic. de Or. iii 18, 67. ‘Arcesilas negabat esse quidquam quod sciri posset, ne illud quidem ipsum, quod Socrates sibi reliquisset’ Ac. i 12, 45.

[17] ‘[cuius] ratio probabilis possit reddi’ Cic. Fin. iii 17, 58. See further below, §§ 105, 332.

[18] See especially §§ 113 and 123.

[19] Cic. Fin. iv 28, 79.

[20] ‘non dolere ... Hieronymus summum bonum esse dixit’ ib. v 25, 73.

[21] ‘at vero Callipho, et post eum Diodorus, cum alter voluptatem adamavisset, alter vacuitatem doloris: neuter honestate carere potuit, quae est a nostris laudata maxime’ ib.

[22] ib. 25, 75.

[23] Off. i 1, 1.

[24] ‘[Stoici] quidem non unam aliquam aut alteram a nobis, sed totam ad se nostram philosophiam transtulerunt. atque, ut reliqui fures, earum rerum, quas ceperunt, signa commutant, sic illi, ut sententiis nostris pro suis uterentur, nomina, tanquam rerum notas, mutaverunt’ Fin. v 25, 74.

[25] Ζήνωνα τὸν Φοίνικα, Athen. Deipnos. xiii 2; ‘tuus ille Poenulus,’ ‘e Phoenicia profecti’ Cic. Fin. iv 20, 56.

[26] Diog. L. vii 31 and 32.

[27] ‘nuntiato naufragio Zeno noster, cum omnia sua audiret submersa: iubet, inquit, me fortuna expeditius philosophari’ Sen. Dial. ix 14, 3.

[28] Diog. L. vii 3.

[29] Diog. L. vi 96 and 97.

[30] ib. vii 4.

[31] ἀντέγραψε πρὸς τὴν Πλάτωνος Πολιτείαν Plut. Sto. rep. 8, 2 (Arnim i 260).

[32] This doctrine can be traced back to Diogenes and even to Socrates: see below, § 303.

[33] τὰς πόλεις κοσμεῖν οὐκ ἀναθήμασιν, ἀλλὰ ταῖς τῶν οἰκούντων ἀρεταῖς Stob. iv 1, 88.

[34] See below, § 305.

[35] παριστάντα πολίτας τοὺς σπουδαίους μόνον Diog. L. vii 33.

[36] See below, § 318.

[37] § 306.

[38] § 307.

[39] §§ 296, 297.

[40] § 304.

[41] § 315.

[42] See above, § 56.

[43] He said ‘O Crates, the best handle of philosophers is that by the ear; persuade me if you can, and lead me that way; if you use violence, my body will stay with you, but my soul will be with Stilpo’ Diog. L. vii 24.

[44] ‘errorem autem et temeritatem et ignorantiam et opinationem et suspicionem et uno nomine omnia, quae essent aliena firmae et constantis adsensionis, a virtute sapientiaque [Zeno] removebat’ Cic. Ac. i 11, 42.

[45] ‘hoc quidem Zeno gestu conficiebat. nam cum extensis digitis adversam manum ostenderat, ‘visum,’ inquiebat, ‘huiusmodi est.’ deinde cum paulum digitos contraxerat, ‘adsensus huiusmodi.’ tum cum plane compresserat pugnumque fecerat, comprehensionem illam esse dicebat; cum autem laevam manum admoverat et illum pugnum arte vehementerque compresserat, scientiam talem esse dicebat: cuius compotem nisi sapientem esse neminem’ Cic. Ac. ii 47, 145.

[46] See below, § 188.

[47] So the Megarians were commonly called on account of their disputatious methods.

[48] As for instance Arcesilaus; Ἀρκεσίλαος ὁ ἐκ τῆς Ἀκαδημίας, Ζήνωνος τοῦ Κιτιέως συσχολαστὴς παρὰ Πολέμωνι Strabo xiii p. 614 (Arnim i 10).

[49] Diog. L. iv 18.

[50] ib. 20.

[51] ib.

[52] Diog. L. vii 25.

[53] See below, § 189.

[54] See § 268, note 2.

[55] οἵ γε ἀπὸ Χρυσίππου καὶ Ζήνωνος φιλόσοφοι καὶ πάντες ὅσοι σῶμα τὴν ψυχὴν νοοῦσι Iamb. de an. (Stob. i 49, 33).

[56] Ζήνων ὁ Στωϊκὸς ὀκταμερῆ φησιν εἶναι τὴν ψυχήν Nemes. nat. hom. p. 96 (Arnim i 143).

[57] οἱ ἀπὸ Ζήνωνος ὀκταμερῆ τὴν ψυχὴν διαδοξάζουσι, περὶ [ἣν] τὰς δυνάμεις εἶναι πλείονας, ὥσπερ ἐν τῷ ἡγεμονίκῳ ἐνυπαρχουσῶν φαντασίας συγκαταθέσεως ὁρμῆς λόγου Iamb. de an. (Arnim i 143). See below, § 270.

[58] τῶν προειρημένων ἤκουσεν ἕως ἐτῶν εἴκοσιν· ἵνα καί φασιν αὐτὸν εἰπεῖν· νῦν εὐπλόηκα, ὅτε νεναυάγηκα Diog. L. vii 4. It must not however be assumed that Zeno himself used the phrase in this sense: see the other references in Arnim i 277.

[59] ‘iam Polemonem audiverant adsidue Zeno et Arcesilas. Sed Zeno cum Arcesilam anteiret aetate, valdeque subtiliter dissereret et peracute moveretur, corrigere conatus est disciplinam’ Cic. Ac. i 9, 34 and 35.

[60] ἐπεὶ συμφοιτῶντες παρὰ Πολέμωνι ἐφιλοτιμήθησαν ἀλλήλοις, συμπαρέλαβον εἰς τὴν πρὸς ἀλλήλους μάχην ὁ μὲν Ἡράκλειτον καὶ Στίλπωνα ἅμα καὶ Κράτητα Euseb. Praep. ev. xiv 5, 11 (quoting Numenius) (Arnim i 11).

[61] Zeno often calls it aether: ‘Zenon ... aethera ... interim vult omnium esse principium’ Min. Felix xix p. 58: Cleanthes calls it spirit, see below, § 100. ‘The fire of Heraclitus becomes aether or πῦρ τεχνικόν—for this distinction is unknown to the Ephesian—and is thereby spiritualised and rarefied’ Pearson, Fragments, Intr. pp. 22, 23.

[62] See below, § 196.

[63] See above, § 39.

[64] Stein, Psychologie, i 62 sqq.

[65] Χρύσιππος καὶ Ζήνων ὑπέθεντο καὶ αὐτοὶ ἀρχὴν μὲν θεὸν τῶν πάντων, σῶμα ὄντα τὸ καθαρώτατον Hippolyt. Philos. 21, 1 (Arnim i 153).

[66] ‘rationem quandam per naturam omnem rerum pertinentem vi divina esse affectam putat’ Cic. N. D. i 14, 36.

[67] ‘Zeno [deum nuncupat] naturalem divinamque legem’ Lact. Div. inst. i 5, 20.

[68] ἄλλοι δέ τινες τῶν ἀρχαιοτέρων Στωϊκῶν τὸν ὀρθὸν λόγον κριτήριον ἀπολείπουσιν, ὡς ὁ Ποσειδώνιος ἐν τῷ περὶ κριτηρίου φησί Diog. L. vii 54 (quoting Diocles Magnes). It is much disputed who the authorities are to which Posidonius here refers.

[69] ‘Zeno naturalem legem divinam esse censet eamque vim obtinere recta imperantem prohibentemque contraria’ Cic. N. D. i 14, 36.

[70] τὸ δὲ τέλος ὁ μὲν Ζήνων οὕτως ἀπέδωκε, τὸ ὁμολογουμένως ζῆν· τοῦτο δ’ ἐστὶ καθ’ ἕνα λόγον καὶ σύμφωνον ζῆν, ὡς τῶν μαχομένως ζώντων κακοδαιμονούντων Stob. ii 7, 6 a. ‘summum bonum, quod cum positum sit in eo, quod ὁμολογίαν Stoici, nos appellemus convenientiam’ Cic. Fin. iii 6, 21.

[71] εὐδαιμονία δ’ ἐστὶν εὔροια βίου Stob. ii 7, 6 e.

[72] See note 70 above.

[73] See below, § 322.

[74] For a fuller treatment see below, §§ 319-321.

[75] οὐχὶ καὶ Ζήνων τούτοις (sc. Peripateticis) ἠκολούθησεν ὑποτιθέμενοις στοιχεῖα τῆς εὐδαιμονίας τὴν φύσιν καὶ τὸ κατὰ φύσιν; Plut. comm. not. 23, 1; ‘[a Polemone] quae essent principia naturae acceperat’ Cic. Fin. iv 16, 45.

[76] τὰ μὲν [οὖν] πολλὴν ἔχοντα ἀξίαν προηγμένα λέγεσθαι, τὰ δὲ πολλὴν ἀπαξίαν ἀποπροηγμένα, Ζήνωνος ταύτας τὰς ὀνομασίας θεμένου πρώτου τοῖς πράγμασι Stob. ii 7, 7 g; see also below, § 320.

[77] Diogenes Laertius says distinctly that Zeno used the phrase, and names the book in which he found it; Diog. L. vii 87. On the other hand Stobaeus (ii 7, 6 a) attributes it to Cleanthes.

[78] ‘Zeno Citieus, advena quidam et ignobilis verborum opifex’ Cic. Tusc. v 12, 34.

[79] See below, § 165.

[80] ‘illa vetus Zenonis brevis, et ut tibi videbatur, acuta conclusio’ Cic. N. D. iii 9, 22.

[81] τὸ λογικὸν τοῦ μὴ λογικοῦ κρεῖττόν ἐστιν· οὐδὲν δέ γε κόσμου κρεῖττόν ἐστιν· λογικὸν ἄρα ὁ κόσμος Sext. math. ix 104 (Arnim i 111); see also below, § 202.

[82] ‘ebrio secretum sermonem nemo committit; viro autem bono committit; ergo vir bonus ebrius non erit’ Sen. Ep. 83, 9; for the original see Arnim i 229.

[83] ‘nullum malum gloriosum est; mors autem gloriosa est; mors ergo non est malum’ Sen. Ep. 82, 9.

[84] ‘If you would know, read Zeno’s writings, and you will see’ Epict. Disc. i 20, 14.

[85] ‘cum Zenone, ut accepimus, Arcesilas sibi omne certamen instituit’ Cic. Ac. i 12, 44.

[86] ‘Arcesilas primum ... ex variis Platonis libris sermonibusque Socraticis hoc maxime arripuit, nihil esse certi quod aut sensibus aut animo percipi possit’ Cic. de Or. iii 18, 67.

[87] ‘hic Zenonem vidisse acute, nullum esse visum quod percipi posset, si id tale esset ab eo, quod est, ut eiusdem modi ab eo, quod non est, posset esse. recte consensit Arcesilas; ad definitionem additum [sc. quale non possit esse a falso]. incubuit autem in eas disputationes, ut doceret nullum tale esse visum a vero, ut non eiusdem modi etiam a falso posset esse’ Cic. Ac. ii 24, 77.

[88] See below, § 157.

[89] ‘compositus sequor Zenona Cleanthen Chrysippum, quorum tamen nemo ad rempublicam accessit, et nemo non misit’ Sen. Dial. ix 1, 10; see also viii 6, 4.

[90] Pearson, Introd. p. 1.

[91] προσεμαρτύρησ[εν ἑαυτῷ] τὴν εὕρεσιν τῆς ἀληθείας Sext. math. vii 321. Pearson, Introd. p. 4.

[92] Diog. L. vii 10 and 11.



The companions of Zeno.

88. During the later years of his life Zeno gathered round him a number of men of practical and speculative capacity, not unworthy of comparison with the companions of Socrates. His death dissolved the immediate tie between them. Some took an active part in the work of government; others followed their teacher’s example, and became the founders of independent schools of thought; a few devoted themselves to strengthening and extending Zeno’s system; and many were doubtless engaged in useful employment of which no record has reached us. Zeno’s work had not yet been exposed to the test of time, and another century was to pass before it could be seen that the Stoic school was to be of permanent importance. Towards the schools of the Cynics, the Megarians, and the Academics, from which its principles were so largely derived, the attitude of the hearers of Zeno was that of a friendly interchange of opinions, in which sharp controversy stopped short of enmity; the followers of Aristotle (the Peripatetics) continued to be but slightly distinguished from the Academics. But all these schools appear to have united in opposition to the Cyrenaics and Epicureans; the champions of virtue could hold no communings with the advocates of pleasure. Individual teachers who practically reverted to Cynic or Academic teaching still called themselves Stoics: but the only one of Zeno’s hearers who adopted Cyrenaic views was contemptuously branded as ‘the deserter[1].’



89. The most intimate companion[2] of Zeno was Persaeus of Citium (circ. 300-243 B.C.). He was the fellow-townsman of Zeno, and, as good authorities assert, at first his personal servant (οἰκέτης)[3] and afterwards his fellow-lodger. On the recommendation of Zeno he took service, together with Aratus the poet, with Antigonus Gonatas, king of Macedonia[4]. Here he was often twitted as to the Stoic paradoxes. King Antigonus sent him messengers announcing the loss of his wife, child, and property, and found that he was not entirely indifferent to external circumstances[5]. He adapted himself easily to court life, and is said to have written a treatise on the theory of the banquet, in which he did not rise above the moral standard of his neighbours[6]. Nor did he disdain to hoax Aristo of Chius, who held strongly to the paradox that ‘the wise man never opines’; he first sent him money by one of two twins, and then sent another to demand it back[7]. Another Socratic paradox, that ‘the wise man is sure to be a good general,’ he endeavoured to maintain by his personal example[8]. Antigonus placed him in command of the acropolis at Corinth, which was nevertheless taken by Aratus of Sicyon in 243 B.C. According to one account, Persaeus was wounded in the attack, and afterwards put to death by the conqueror[9]; others relate that he escaped to Cenchreae[10]. As a philosopher he is of little importance; but Cicero mentions that he not only maintained that amongst the gods were men raised to the sky for their services to mankind (which was an accepted Stoic doctrine), but also that objects useful to man had been deified[11].



90. Two other companions of Zeno also took service under Antigonus, apparently at the same time. Of these Philonides of Thebes[12] is otherwise unknown to us. The other was Aratus of Soli in Cilicia, author of the well-known poem The Phaenomena, an astronomical treatise afterwards translated into Latin by Cicero, and largely used by Virgil in his Georgics. The poems of Aratus had a wide influence, and were probably the source from which so many Stoic conceptions reached Virgil. The most interesting part for us is the Introduction, in which he interprets Zeus in Stoic fashion as the deity who dwells in sea and land, in markets and streets: whose family is mankind; and whose providence has set the stars in the heaven to regulate the seasons of the year and to be a guide to the farmer and the sailor[13]. The spirit of this poem is closely akin to that of the hymn of Cleanthes.


91. Still another hearer of Zeno took a prominent part in political life. Sphaerus from the Bosphorus (circ. 250 B.C.) was attracted to Cleomenes III, king of Sparta, who under his influence reintroduced the laws of Lycurgus in his city, and particularly those which referred to the education of the youth and the taking of meals in common[14]. With these he combined the plan of a monarchy after the Stoic model, in which the sovereign was to side with the poor against the rich[15]. But in 221 B.C. Cleomenes suffered a crushing defeat, and was compelled to take refuge with Ptolemy III (Euergetes), king of Egypt. Sphaerus found his way to the same court. The death of Ptolemy III left Cleomenes in the position of a disregarded suppliant[16]; but Sphaerus appears to have found a congenial home in Alexandria, now the centre of Hellenistic learning, and doubtless introduced the Stoic philosophy in the circle that gathered round the Museum[17]. He gained a special reputation by the excellence of his definitions[18]. From an anecdote[81] related of him we must infer that whilst adhering to Zeno’s doctrine that the wise man will not opine, he accepted reasonable assurance (τὸ εὔλογον) as a sufficient guide in daily life[19]. He appears to have laid special stress upon the unity of virtue, maintaining that the separate virtues are but appearances of virtue or knowledge in different spheres of action[20].


92. Herillus of Carthage (circ. 250 B.C.) is frequently referred to by Cicero as teaching doctrines hardly distinguishable from those of the Academy, in that he made knowledge the highest good[21], and taught that separate from it, yet with claims of their own, there existed inferior ends of action (ὑποτελίδες)[22]. It does not, however, appear clearly that he differed much from Zeno. Sphaerus, as we have seen, had defined the virtues as being ‘knowledge displayed in different spheres of action,’ and the aim of Herillus, ‘to live according to the standard of life accompanied by knowledge[23],’ points in the direction of practical rather than of speculative wisdom. His ‘subordinate aims’ appear also to correspond with Zeno’s ‘things of high degree’ (προηγμένα), and are defined as being the first states to which an animal is attracted upon birth, as food, life, strength (πρῶτα κατὰ φύσιν)[24]; they serve only for ‘ends’ (τέλη) for men who have not yet attained to wisdom[25]. This doctrine corresponds closely to the Stoic doctrine as developed somewhat later[26].



93. Aristo of Chios (circ. 250 B.C.) departed more decidedly from Zeno’s teaching, falling back generally on Cynic views. He was no favourite of Zeno, who called him a chatterbox[27]: and in later life he was accused of becoming a flatterer of Persaeus when the latter was in power[28], and of luxury in his personal habits[29]. But his success as a teacher was great, and he formed a body of followers who called themselves Aristonians.

He appears to have supported Zeno vigorously as to the doctrine of ‘comprehension’; and if on this subject he was worsted for the moment by Persaeus[30], he retaliated on some Academic by asking: ‘do you see who is sitting next you?’ The Academic replied ‘I do not.’ ‘Are you blind, then,’ said Aristo; ‘where are your eyes[31]?’ Still he considered any systematic study of dialectics to be a mere waste of time; like spiders’ webs, which seem to display much skill, but are of no use[32]. With regard to physics he was openly agnostic[33]; of the nature of the gods he thought we could know nothing, not even whether the deity were animate or no[34]. Ethics alone remained; but this part of philosophy he reduced by omitting all practical precepts, as introducing the element of uncertainty[35]. In ethics proper he rejects the theory of ‘things of high degree’ (προηγμένα), observing that this term does not harmonize with the treatment of advantages as ‘indifferent,’ but comes dangerously near to calling them ‘good[36].’ Virtue, or rather knowledge, is, as he maintains, the only good; and all that lies between good and evil is alike indifferent[37]. The highest good[83] may therefore be defined as a state of indifference (ἀδιαφορία) towards all such things[38].

Aristo was however once more in agreement with Stoic doctrine when he maintained the unity of virtue. ‘The soul,’ he said, ‘has one power only, that of reasoning; one virtue only, the knowledge of good and evil. When we need to choose the good and avoid the evil, we call this knowledge Soberness; when we need to do good and not evil, we call it Wisdom; Courage, when it is bold and cautious at the right moments; and when it gives every man his due, Justice[39].’ But in deciding his action the wise man will be bound by no theories: he can do whatever comes into his head, provided only he keep himself free from distress, fear and greed[40].

The popularity of these views was repressed by the activity of Chrysippus; in Cicero’s time they were, in cultivated society, extinct[41]. But from the numerous references to Aristo in literature it is clear that his teaching was by no means forgotten; and when there took place the revival of the Cynic tone which we see illustrated in the writings of Epictetus and M. Aurelius, Aristo is again treated with high respect[42].


94. An eminent pupil of Aristo was Eratosthenes of Cyrene, the grammarian, whom he won over from the Cyrenaic school. Eratosthenes undoubtedly represented the spirit of his teacher and of the Cynic school towards which he inclined, when he vehemently repudiated the prejudice which then divided mankind into Hellenes and barbarians[43]. He was invited by Ptolemy III (Euergetes) to be chief librarian of the Museum at Alexandria, and tutor to the crown-prince, and has left us an epigram in honour of this great[84] patron of learning and philosophy[44]. Amongst other followers of Aristo we hear specially of Apollophanes of Antiochia[45].


95. Alone amongst the hearers of Zeno Dionysius of Heraclea abandoned his principles, and went over from the camp of virtue to that of pleasure. A painful disease of the eyes had made him abandon the doctrine that ‘pain is no evil[46].’ His secession was used by Antiochus as an argument against the doctrine of comprehension or certain knowledge[47]. That his life after he became a Cyrenaic was openly scandalous[48] we need not too readily believe: such accusations may easily be mere deductions from his supposed philosophic principles. Dionysius appears to have been a particular friend and admirer of the poet Aratus[49].

Of the less important hearers of Zeno we have the names of, amongst others, Athenodorus of Soli[50], Callippus of Corinth[50], Posidonius of Alexandria[50], and Zeno of Sidon[50]. The last, if he existed, must be kept distinct from other Zenos, such as Zeno of Tarsus the pupil of Chrysippus, and Zeno of Sidon the Epicurean philosopher.


96. We come last amongst Zeno’s hearers to Cleanthes of Assos in Asia Minor (331-232 B.C.), who succeeded Zeno as head of the school when already advanced in years, and presided over it for a whole generation. In personal character he was a worthy successor of Socrates, Diogenes, and Zeno. He was trained in hardship and willing endurance[51]; and if he did not quickly understand, yet all he learnt was deeply impressed upon him[52]. He studied Zeno’s life even more attentively than his doctrines; lived with him, watched his hours[85] of retirement, inquired whether his actions corresponded to his teaching[53]. Himself a man of the people, he ardently desired to spread his convictions amongst the many, and chose verse as the best means to express clearly his meaning and win access to men’s ears[54]. He remained constant to Zeno’s teaching[55], but he inspired it with a fresh enthusiasm and developed it in more consistent detail. He is before all things the theologian of Stoicism. The belief in the deity, which in the fragments of Zeno’s teaching appears merely formal and argumentative, becomes in the verse of Cleanthes ardent and dominating. God is the creator and the director of the world; his Logos gives it order and harmony. In God’s designs it is the privilege and duty of man to cooperate; but since he is possessed of free will, it is also within his power to make a futile opposition. In this way the good and the bad stand in definite contrast. Finally, right knowledge and right action are only possible by association with the deity through praise and prayer.

His poetry.

97. It is our good fortune to possess several complete poems of Cleanthes, which are of more value to us towards appreciating his standpoint than a hundred detached sentences would be. The hymn to Zeus[56] is the most important, and its likeness to the opening of Aratus’ Phaenomena[57] will not escape notice.

Hymn to Zeus.
Supreme of gods, by titles manifold
Invoked, o thou who over all dost hold
Eternal dominance, Nature’s author, Zeus,
Guiding a universe by Law controlled; 2
Hail! for ’tis meet that men should call on thee
Whose seed we are; and ours the destiny
Alone of all that lives and moves on earth,
A mirror of thy deity[58] to be. 5
Therefore I hymn thee and thy power I praise;
For at thy word, on their appointed ways
The orbs of heaven in circuit round the earth
Move, and submissive each thy rule obeys, 8
Who holdest in thy hands invincible
So dread a minister to work thy will—
The eternal bolt of fire, two-edged, whose blast
Thro’ all the powers of nature strikes a chill[59]11
Whereby thou guid’st the universal force,
Reason, through all things interfused, whose course
Commingles with the great and lesser[60] lights—
Thyself of all the sovran and the source: 14
For nought is done on earth apart from thee,
Nor in thy vault of heaven, nor in the sea;
Save for the reckless deeds of sinful men
Whose own hearts lead them to perversity. 17
But skill to make the crookèd straight is thine,
To turn disorder to a fair design;
Ungracious things are gracious in thy sight,
For ill and good thy power doth so combine 20
That out of all appears in unity
Eternal Reason, which the wicked flee
And disregard, who long for happiness,
Yet God’s great Law can neither hear nor see; 24
Ill-fated folk! for would they but obey
With understanding heart, from day to day
Their life were full of blessing, but they turn
Each to his sin, by folly led astray. 26
Glory would some thro’ bitter strife attain
And some are eager after lawless gain;
Some lust for sensual delights, but each
Finds that too soon his pleasure turns to pain. 31
But, Zeus all-bountiful! the thunder-flame
And the dark cloud thy majesty proclaim:
From ignorance deliver us, that leads
The sons of men to sorrow and to shame. 33


Wherefore dispel it, Father, from the soul
And grant that Wisdom may our life control,
Wisdom which teaches thee to guide the world
Upon the path of justice to its goal. 35
So winning honour thee shall we requite
With honour, lauding still thy works of might;
Since gods nor men find worthier meed than this—
The universal Law to praise aright. 39
Translated by W. H. Porter.

98. Another short poem of Cleanthes identifies Zeus with fate, and points the same moral as to human duty:

Lead me, O Zeus, and lead me, Destiny,
What way soe’er ye have appointed me!
I follow unafraid: yea, though the will
Turn recreant, I needs must follow still[61].

In other poems characteristic Stoic doctrines are set forth with clearness and emphasis:

‘Look not at common opinion, and be not eager to be wise of a sudden; fear not the chatter of the many, in which there is no judgment and no modesty; for the crowd does not possess shrewd just and fair judgment, but amongst the few you may perchance find this[62].’

‘Do you ask me of what kind the good is? Listen then. It is orderly, just, innocent, pious, self-controlled, useful, fair, necessary, severe, upright, always of advantage; fearless, painless, profitable, without smart; helpful, pleasing, sure, friendly, honourable, consistent; noble, not puffed up, painstaking, comforting, full of energy, biding its time, blameless, unchanging[63].’

‘He who abstains from some disgraceful action yet all the while has desire for it, will some day do it, when he gets opportunity[64].’

In the last of the passages we are introduced to an ethical paradox of the highest importance to Stoicism: that good and evil are set in the will and the intention, and are not dependent upon the action[65].


Originality of Cleanthes.

99. To the ancients Cleanthes was the faithful disciple of Zeno. Persaeus, Aratus, and others had turned aside from the direct pursuit of philosophy, and their contact with science and politics might easily sully the purity of their philosophic creed. Herillus had adopted Academic doctrine, Aristo had fallen back into Cynism, Dionysius had actually seceded to the party of pleasure. It might seem that the far-reaching sweep of Zeno’s intellect had no real hold on his companions. But Cleanthes at least stood firm by the old landmarks. We must not suppose from this that he was a man of no originality[66]; his language and his style at least are his own. Nor on the other hand can we go all the way with some recent writers, who attribute to him exclusively large parts of the Stoic system[67]. Our authorities commonly refer either to Zeno alone, or to Zeno, Cleanthes, and Chrysippus jointly, as vouching for accepted Stoic doctrine; and we are hardly entitled to lay great stress on the comparatively few fragments of which the authorship is assigned exclusively to Cleanthes, as evidence for the independence of his teaching; especially as we can in many instances see that our authorities delight in attributing a difference of meaning to the Stoic masters, when in reality there is nothing more to be found than a difference of phrasing[68]. It is however clear that Stoicism did not assume its complete form in the hands of its first propagator; and to a limited extent we can see the directions in which his teaching was amplified by his successors.

Physics of Cleanthes.

100. Cleanthes took a special interest in the physical speculations of Heraclitus, on whose writings he composed four books[69], and in particular in the bearing of his speculations upon the nature of the deity. The belief in the dualism of God and matter, of the Word and the world, is attributed to Cleanthes as distinctly as to Zeno[70]; but on the other hand the conception of an overruling unity is much more[89] pronounced in the later writer[71]. Hence from the first Cleanthes endeavours to give a wider meaning to the primary fire of Heraclitus, the creative fire of Zeno. For this fire he proposed the new term ‘flame’ (φλόξ)[72]; at other times he identified it with the sky[73], with the sun[74], and with the principle of heat[75]; and finally adopted the term ‘spirit’ (πνεῦμα, spiritus), which has ever since held its place in the discussion of natural theology. This term appears to have been at first intended to combine the conceptions of the creative fire and of the Logos[76], but it gradually came to have distinctive associations of its own. Like fire, ‘spirit’ is to the Stoics a substance, stuff, or body akin to the element of air, but associated with warmth and elasticity; it is conceived as immanent in the universe and penetrating it as the deity; immanent in the human body and penetrating it as the soul[77]. The elasticity of spirit is measured by its ‘tension’ (τόνος, intentio), by means of which its creative power pushes forward from the centre to the circumference: as for instance in the human body walking is effected by ‘spirit exercising tension towards the feet[78].’ The theory of ‘tension’ has an immediate application to ethics. When the soul has sufficient tension to perform its proper work, it operates according to the virtues of Wisdom, Justice, Courage, and Soberness; but when the tension is relaxed, the soul becomes disordered and is seized upon by the emotions[79].

Theology of Cleanthes.

101. To Cleanthes also it fell to explain more fully the government both of the universe and of the individual. Zeno indeed is said to have used the term ἡγεμονικόν (principale, principatus)[80], which we may translate by[90] ‘ruling power,’ or shortly (following the Latin) by ‘principate[81],’ for the highest power of the human soul; Cleanthes sought a similar principle in the universe also, and is said to have found it in the sun[82]. By thus using the term in a double sense he implies the analogy which is expressed by the correlative terms ‘macrocosm’ and ‘microcosm,’ and which leads up to the definition of God as the ‘soul of the universe[83].’ Cleanthes further speaks of the universe itself as god[84]; but before describing him as a pantheist it is well to consider that this is only one form out of many in which he expresses his creed. He was also the first to give the four proofs of the existence of the deity upon which all discussions of the ‘evidences of Natural Religion’ have been based down to the present day, and which we shall further discuss in a later chapter[85].

The pious zeal of Cleanthes was not without a touch of bigotry, destined to have serious consequences in the final developments of Stoicism, and to reappear in the history of the middle ages with distressing intensity; he was bitterly opposed to the novel heliocentric theory of the universe as an impiety[86].

Weakness of Stoicism.

102. Thus even though we can no longer discriminate sharply between the teaching of Zeno and that of Cleanthes, we have every reason to suppose that the latter was possessed of originality of thought and vigour and copiousness of expression. We cannot easily believe that a man of such powers failed to attract hearers or to retain a hold upon them. But in his extreme old age it seems that the majority were drawn aside either to the ingenious arguments of Arcesilaus the Academic, or to the more independent teaching of Aristo of Chios. The continued existence of Stoicism seemed[91] threatened; its critics were not to be contented with rhetoric or poetry, but insistently demanded proofs. In this crisis it was saved and established by a younger man, Chrysippus of Soli (280-206 B.C.), who was far inferior in original power, but equally zealous and more in harmony with the tastes and demands of the younger generation.


103. Chrysippus was a fellow-townsman of Aratus of Soli, and his appearance is doubtless a sign of the active interest in philosophy which for some centuries marks the neighbourhood of the important town of Tarsus. Born in 280 B.C. he found in his early manhood three prominent teachers at Athens, Arcesilaus, Aristo, and Cleanthes. Of these Aristo seems to have been the most popular, and surprise was expressed that Chrysippus did not join his school. ‘Had I followed the many,’ he replied, ‘I should not have become a philosopher[87].’ His convictions drew him to Cleanthes, but he felt much impatience with his methods. This state of mind he must have expressed freely, for in after life he reproached himself that he had not behaved more kindly towards his teacher in his old age[88]. Confident in his own powers, he desired to relieve Cleanthes of the burden of replying to the many attacks made upon his doctrines, especially as to dialectics[89]. It is well known that he asked his master to supply him with his dogmas only, saying that he himself would find the proofs[90]. Chrysippus probably outlived his opponents, and during the time when he was head of the school (232-206 B.C.) only found himself opposed by men of mediocre talents. He devoted his whole energies to strengthening and systematizing Stoic doctrine. He not only gave its proofs, but used every art of the dialectician to recommend it to his hearers[91]. From his facile pen there poured an endless stream of writings, not remarkable either for originality or for style, but of the highest importance as fixing definitely the[92] standard of Stoic orthodoxy. He gathered numerous hearers round him, and before his death it could truly be said that he had saved the Stoa[92].

Dialectic of Chrysippus.

104. In his method of exposition Chrysippus made great use of the syllogism, thus reverting to the practice of Zeno as opposed to the more poetical style of Cleanthes. As to the value of this syllogistic reasoning very contrary opinions were expressed in antiquity. By his contemporaries he was greatly admired, so that it was said that ‘if the gods had needed a dialectic, they would have taken that of Chrysippus[93].’ On the other hand members of his own school complained that he often stated his opponents’ case more forcibly than his own[94]. The Romans mix their praise with censure, and find that he sometimes entangles himself in the threads of his own argument[95]; and we ourselves cannot fail to notice that when his major and minor premisses are compared, the meaning of the common term has usually shifted[96]. But if Chrysippus did not provide a final solution to great problems, he at least adapted the Stoic system to the taste of his age, alike by his use of syllogisms and by the attention he paid to the solution of fallacies[97].

Opposition of the Academy.

105. Whilst the works of Chrysippus cover the whole range of the Stoic philosophy, their special colour is largely due to the interests of his own time. The stress laid by Zeno on the certainty of knowledge had produced a[93] reaction in the Academic school. Arcesilaus, who had succeeded Polemo as its leader, leaving on one side the positive teaching of Plato’s later years, reverted to the sceptical attitude which had been one characteristic of Socrates, and which is so prominent in most of the Platonic dialogues[98]. He attacked with the utmost vigour Zeno’s doctrine of ‘comprehension’; and further argued that certain knowledge is unnecessary for practical life, of which probability, that is, such action as can find reasonable justification, is the sufficient guide[99]. Chrysippus defended with the utmost energy the dogma of the certainty of knowledge, based upon the perspicuity of true mind pictures[100]; but the teaching of Arcesilaus obtained a hold upon him, and (as we shall see) was ultimately allowed by him a place within the Stoic system.

Spread of Epicureanism.

106. Chrysippus meanwhile had a more dangerous enemy to meet than the Academy. During the weakness which befel the Stoic school in the middle of the third century B.C., the rival school of Epicurus had won an enormous popularity. Yet its ethical standard, which it had inherited from the Cyrenaics, offended not only the followers of Zeno but all sober-minded philosophers. For Epicurus had set up Pleasure as the queen of life, and had converted the virtues into her handmaidens[101]; and so far was he from taking interest in model states, that he advised his hearers to hold aloof altogether from public life. Worst of all, his followers only smiled at the reproofs that were showered upon them. They formed among themselves a cheerful, affectionate, and united society; their simple pleasures created no public scandal, though their entertainments were often enlivened by tales of the moral lapses of their self-righteous rivals. The bracing morality of Cynism seemed to be quite gone out of fashion, and even the Aristonians had ceased to exist.


Alliance of the three schools.

107. Under these circumstances the remaining schools began to look one to another for support, and were even brought into a kind of alliance. The adherents of the Academy and the Porch, in particular, began to meet in friendly discussion, and sometimes defined anew their doctrines so as to minimize points of difference, sometimes directly modified them by way of concession to opposed arguments. This process resulted in a toning down of Stoicism in every part of its system. The Stoic teachers began to disregard or push into the background those characteristic doctrines which had been embodied in the Socratic paradoxes and enforced by the Cynic propaganda. Thus their teaching gave less offence to the lax crowd, and at the same time (it must be admitted) less support to the striving few; but its tone was now so modest that men of gentle and judicious temperament were attracted to Stoicism for the first time. Stoicism began now to shew itself receptive of literary influences, especially as regards the works of Plato and Aristotle, and even appreciative of artistic ideals. Such was the tendency of the system during both the second and the first centuries B.C.; but it is more difficult to estimate the extent of the deviation. Terms like εὐκρασία ‘well proportioned mixture[102],’ εὔροια ‘even flow[103],’ εὐτονία ‘due tone[104],’ συμφωνία ‘harmony[105],’ are attributed even to the earliest masters: whilst it is abundantly clear that the Socratic and Cynic paradoxes formed at all times part of the generally accepted view of Stoic doctrine.

Chrysippus inclines to the Academy.

108. It is an interesting question, which perhaps needs further investigation, to what extent this approximation between the doctrines of the Academy and the Porch can be traced in the writings of Chrysippus. On the one hand we must remember that Chrysippus was a man of distinctly orthodox temperament; he firmly opposed the Cynizing heresies of Aristo, and strongly defended the Stoic theory of knowledge against the Academy. But our knowledge of the teaching of Chrysippus, abundant in volume, is lacking in precision. Our authorities, as we have seen, very imperfectly[95] distinguish, and very inadequately record, the teaching of the two earlier masters; and the doctrines which are regarded as common to all Stoics must be assumed to be generally stated in the language of Chrysippus, whose works remained for centuries the recognised standard of orthodoxy. Even so there are few distinctive doctrines of Chrysippus which do not seem to be foreshadowed in expressions attributed to some earlier teacher. Yet we may fairly assume that in his ethical teaching there was a substantial sacrifice of the forcefulness of the Socratic character, and a corresponding approach to Academic views. This appears when he defines the supreme good as ‘a life according to nature, that is, both general nature and our individual human nature[106],’ and adds, ‘for our individual natures are parts of the nature of the all[107].’ This approaches the doctrine of ‘virtue appropriate to the individual’ (οἰκεία ἀρετή), as taught by the Academics[108]. A still more striking concession is his permission to men engaged in practical life to describe advantages as ‘good things,’ provided they are carefully distinguished from the supreme good[109].

Successors of Chrysippus.

109. The weakening hold of the Stoics upon the principles of their founder first becomes evident in the department of physics. Thus it is an essential part of the theory which the Stoics borrowed from Heraclitus, that as the whole universe has proceeded from the all-creative fire, so it must in due course be re-absorbed in it, this periodical re-absorption being technically known as the ‘conflagration’ (ἐκπύρωσις). On the other hand the followers of Aristotle, following dualistic principles, placed God and the universe in eternal contrast, and held both to be immortal. Ingenious controversialists now pressed the Stoics to explain how their deity exercised his providence during the periodic intervals in which the universe had no separate existence. This and like arguments had an immediate effect. Boëthus of Sidon, a contemporary of Chrysippus, abandoned altogether the Stoic theory on this[96] subject[110]; Zeno of Tarsus, who had been with his father Dioscorides a pupil of Chrysippus, and who succeeded him as head of the school, discreetly ‘suspended his judgment’ upon the point[111]. But whatever its theoretical embarrassments, the Stoic school continued to prosper. Zeno of Tarsus wrote but few books, but had more disciples than any other[112]; he was succeeded by Seleucus of the Tigris[113], and he in turn by Diogenes[114], Antipater, and Panaetius. The last of these maintained Zeno’s ‘suspense of judgment[115]’ on the question of the conflagration; but after his death the Stoics quietly returned to the older opinion.

Diogenes and Antipater.

110. Diogenes of Seleucia (circ. 238-150 B.C.; often called ‘of Babylon,’ or simply Diogenes Stoicus), and Antipater of Tarsus (circ. 200-129 B.C.), were both men of eminence in the history of Stoicism[116], but they were unequally matched against Carneades (218-128 B.C.), who was head of the Academic school about the same time, and who proclaimed the doctrine of a universal suspension of judgment. The many volumes of Chrysippus gave Carneades ample opportunities for the exercise of his critical powers; and Antipater, unable or unwilling to meet him in open argument, fell himself into the evil habit of book-writing[117]. Both these teachers specially interested themselves in questions of casuistry. Diogenes, who defined the good as ‘reasonableness in the choice of natural ends[118],’ adopted practically that interpretation of ‘reasonableness’ in which divine reason has the least part, and human plausibility the freest play[119]. Thus he discusses the problems whether the seller of a house ought to inform the[97] purchaser of its defects, and whether a man upon whom false coins have been passed may transfer them to his neighbour[120]. Exactly as Carneades[121], he finds ‘reasonable excuse’ for the less scrupulous course. Antipater on the other hand holds that a man’s duty to his neighbour requires perfect frankness[122]; yet he is said to have abandoned the Socratic doctrine of the self-sufficiency of virtue, and to have held that external goods are a part (though only a small part) of the supreme good[123].

Lesser Stoics.

111. We may now shortly mention some less important Stoic teachers, chiefly of the early part of the second century B.C., since their number alone is an indication of the wide influence of the sect. Aristocreon, said to have been the nephew of Chrysippus, set up a statue in his honour, as the man who could cut his way through the knots tied by the Academics[124]. Zenodotus was a pupil of Diogenes, and wrote an epigram on Zeno: he at least defended the ‘manly doctrine’ of the founder, and recalled the principle of the sufficiency of virtue[125]. Apollodorus of Seleucia on the Tigris[126] (sometimes called Ephillus[127]), another pupil of Diogenes, leant towards Cynic views; for he declared that ‘the wise man will be a Cynic, for this is a short cut to virtue[128]’; an opinion afterwards adopted by the Stoics generally[129]. He also wrote on physics. A third pupil of Diogenes was Apollodorus of Athens[130]. Closely associated with Antipater is Archedemus of Tarsus; like his fellow-townsman, he was greatly devoted to dialectics[131]; in ethics he appears to have inclined strongly to Academic views, holding that the end of life was the regular[98] performance of daily duties[132]. Just about the time we have now reached (the middle of the second century B.C.) Eumenes II founded the great library at Pergamus, intended to rival that of Alexandria. As librarian he installed a Stoic philosopher, Crates of Mallos, who devoted much of his time to grammatical inquiries, and endeavoured to bring Homer into accord with the Stoic views on geography[133]; he is the first Stoic of whom we hear at Rome, which he visited about 159 B.C. Being detained there by an accident, he employed his time in giving lectures on literature[134]; and his pupil Panaetius was destined to introduce Stoicism to Roman society. Lastly we may mention Heraclides of Tarsus, a pupil of Antipater, said to have broken away from the teaching of the school by denying that all sins are equal[135]. Athenodorus of Tarsus, who held the same view, belongs to a later generation[136]. Of uncertain date are Basilides, who pushed his monism so far as to declare that all things, even statements, are bodies[137]; Eudromus, who wrote on the elements of ethics[138]; and Crinis, who interested himself in logic[139].


[1] See below, § 95.

[2] μάλιστα μὲν οὖν τῶν μαθητῶν ὑπὸ τοῦ Ζήνωνος ἠγαπᾶτο ὁ Περσαῖος Ind. Sto. Herc. col. xii 3 (Arnim i 437).

[3] ‘Zenonis Stoici servus, qui Persaeus vocatus est’ A. Gellius N. A. ii 18, 8. ἦν γὰρ ὄντως οἰκέτης γεγονὼς τοῦ Ζήνωνος, ὡς Νικίας ὁ Νικαεὺς ἱστορεῖ ἐν τῇ περὶ τῶν φιλοσόφων ἱστορίᾳ καὶ Σωτίων ὁ Ἀλεξανδρεὺς ἐν ταῖς Διαδοχαῖς Athen. iv 54 (Arnim i 452). On the other hand ‘nullum [servum fuisse] Zenoni ... satis constat’ Sen. Dial. xii 12, 4.

[4] Arnim i 439, 440.

[5] ib. 449.

[6] Athen. iv 54 (Arnim i 452).

[7] Diog. L. vii 162.

[8] Athen. as above.

[9] Paus. ii 8, 4; vii 8, 3 (Arnim i 442).

[10] Plut. Arat. 23, 3. According to Plutarch he afterwards admitted that he had been wrongly taught as to the ‘good general.’

[11] ‘Persaeus eos dicit esse habitos deos, a quibus magna utilitas ad vitae cultum esset inventa, ipsasque res utiles et salutares deorum esse vocabulis nuncupatas’ Cic. N. D. i 15, 38. Persaeus derived the theory from Prodicus; Philod. de piet. 9 (Arnim i 448), and above, § 42.

[12] Diog. L. vii 9.

[13] ἐκ Διὸς ἀρχώμεσθα, τὸν οὐδέποτ’ ἄνδρες ἐῶμεν | ἄῤῥητον· μεσταὶ δὲ Διὸς πᾶσαι μὲν ἀγυιαί, | πᾶσαι δ’ ἀνθρώπων ἀγοραί, μεστὴ δὲ θάλασσα | καὶ λιμένες· πάντῃ δὲ Διὸς κεχρήμεθα πάντες. | τοῦ γὰρ καὶ γένος ἐσμέν· ὁ δ’ ἤπιος ἀνθρώποισιν | δεξιὰ σημαίνει, λαοὺς δ’ ἐπὶ ἔργον ἐγείρει | μιμνῄσκων βιότοιο: Aratus, Phaen. Pref.

[14] Plut. Cleo. 11, 2.

[15] Mahaffy, Empire of the Ptolemies, p. 222.

[16] ib. p. 245.

[17] Zeller, Stoics etc., p. 44.

[18] ‘Sphaeri, hominis in primis bene definientis, ut putant Stoici’ Cic. Tusc. disp. iv 24, 53.

[19] See below, § 332.

[20] ‘fortitudo est ... conservatio stabilis iudici in iis rebus, quae formidolosae videntur ... [haec definitio erat] Sphaeri’ Cic. as above. The principle was accepted by all Stoics, see below, § 323.

[21] ‘omitto ... Erillum, qui in cognitione et scientia summum bonum ponit; qui cum Zenonis auditor esset, vides quantum ab eo dissenserit, et quam non multum a Platone’ Cic. Ac. ii 42, 129. See also Fin. iv 14, 36.

[22] ‘sin ea [quae virtus leget quaeque reiciet] non neglegemus neque tamen ad finem summi boni referemus, non multum ab Erilli levitate aberrabimus; facit enim ille duo seiuncta ultima bonorum’ Fin. iv 15, 40.

[23] ζῆν ἀεὶ πάντα ἀναφέροντα πρὸς τὸ μετ’ ἐπιστήμης ζῆν Diog. L. vii 165.

[24] ὑποτελὶς δ’ ἐστὶ τὸ πρῶτον οἰκεῖον τοῦ ζῴου πάθος, ἀφ’ οὗ κατήρξατο συναισθάνεσθαι τὸ ζῷον τῆς συστασέως αὑτοῦ, οὔπω λογικὸν [ὂν] ἀλλ’ ἄλογον Stob. ii 7, 3 c.

[25] διαφέρειν δὲ τέλος καὶ ὑποτελίδα· τῆς μὲν γὰρ καὶ τοὺς μὴ σοφοὺς στοχάζεσθαι, τοῦ δὲ μόνον τὸν σοφόν Diog. L. vii 165.

[26] The best discussion is by Hirzel, Untersuchungen, ii 46 sqq. He considers the teaching of Herillus to have inclined to Cynism rather than to Platonism, and to have been substantially identical with that of Aristo.

[27] λάλον ἐπέκαλει Diog. L. vii 18.

[28] Athen. vi 58 (Arnim i 342).

[29] ib. vii 14 (Arnim i 341).

[30] See above, § 89.

[31] Diog. L. vii 163.

[32] ib. vii 161.

[33] ‘nihil istorum [physicorum] sciri putat posse’ Cic. Ac. ii 39, 123.

[34] ‘qui neque formam dei intellegi posse censeat, neque in dis sensum esse dicat; dubitetque omnino deus animans necne sit’ Cic. N. D. i 14, 37.

[35] ‘Aristo moralem quoque ... quam solam reliquerat, circumcidit’ Sen. Ep. 89, 13. ‘hanc partem [quae dat propria cuique personae praecepta] levem existimat, et quae non descendat in pectus usque’ ib. 94, 2: in this letter the whole subject is very fully discussed.

[36] ἴσον γάρ ἐστι τὸ προηγμένον αὐτὴν λέγειν ἀδιάφορον τῷ ἀγαθὸν ἀξιοῦν, καὶ σχεδὸν ὀνόματι μόνον διαφέρον Sext. math. xi 64 (Arnim i 361).

[37] ‘Aristonis ... sententia, non esse res ullas praeter virtutes et vitia, inter quas quicquam omnino interesset’ Cic. Fin. iv 17, 47.

[38] ‘huic [sc. Aristoni] summum bonum est, in his rebus neutram in partem moveri, quae ἀδιαφορία ab ipso dicitur’ Cic. Ac. ii 42, 130.

[39] Galen, Hipp. et Plat. vii 2 (Arnim i 374). Chrysippus is said to have complained that he made the various virtues σχέσεις or variations of a single virtue (Plut. Sto. rep. vii 3); nevertheless the same doctrine frequently reappears in Stoic writers.

[40] ‘vives, inquit Aristo, magnifice atque praeclare, quod erit cunque visum, ages: nunquam angere, nunquam cupies, nunquam timebis’ Cic. Fin. iv 25, 69.

[41] ‘Aristonis ... iampridem explosa sententia est’ Off. i 2, 6; cf. Fin. iv 17, 47.

[42] N. Saal, p. 37 sqq. For fuller discussions of Aristo see Hirzel, Untersuchungen, ii p. 44, and Dyroff, Ethik, pp. 43 sqq., 356 sqq.

[43] Gomperz, Greek Thinkers, ii p. 161.

[44] Mahaffy, Empire of the Ptolemies, p. 207.

[45] Athen. vii 14 (Arnim i 408).

[46] ‘nobis Heracleotes ille Dionysius flagitiose descivisse videtur a Stoicis propter oculorum dolorem; quasi vero hoc didicisset a Zenone, non dolere, cum doleret! illud audierat nec tamen didicerat, malum illud non esse, quia turpe non esset’ Cic. Fin. v 31, 94; τέλος εἶπε τὴν ἡδονὴν διὰ περίστασιν ὀφθαλμίας Diog. L. vii 166.

[47] ‘[quaerebat Antiochus], Dionysius ille Heracleotes utrum comprehendisset, ... honestum quod esset, id solum bonum esse, an ... honesti inane nomen esse, voluptatem esse summum bonum’ Cic. Ac. ii 22, 71.

[48] Diog. L. vii 167; Athen. x 50 (Arnim i 428).

[49] Diog. L. vii 167.

[50] Diog. L. vii 38.

[51] He drew water by night that he might study philosophy by day, according to Diog. L. vii 168. ‘Cleanthes aquam traxit et rigando horto locavit manus’ Sen. Ep. 44, 3.

[52] Diog. L. vii 37.

[53] ‘Zenonem Cleanthes non expressisset, si tantummodo audisset: vitae enim eius interfuit, secreta perspexit, observavit illum, an ex formula sua viveret’ Sen. Ep. 6, 6.

[54] ‘sensus nostros clariores carminis arta necessitas efficit’ Sen. Ep. 108, 10.

[55] ἐπὶ τῶν αὐτῶν ἔμεινε δογμάτων Diog. L. vii 168.

[56] Stob. i 1, 12 (Arnim i 537).

[57] See above, § 90.

[58] I follow the reading γενόμεσθα, θεοῦ. The words γένος ἐσμέν in the text are surely a reminiscence of Aratus, Phaen. 5 (so Pearson, p. 276), and θεοῦ μίμημα is confirmed by Musonius ap. Stob. Flor. 117, 8 (see below, § 419). Mr Pearson now suggests to me that the MS reading ἤχου may represent the correction of a pious scribe, Ι̅Ϲ̅ Χ̅Υ̅, i.e. Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ for θεοῦ. See below, § 244.

[59] The translation follows Pearson’s ἐρρίγασιν. Arnim reads ἔργα τελεῖται. Even the meaning is quite uncertain here.

[60] μεγάλῳ μικροῖς τε (Diels) seems the nearest reading to the MS, so that the word ‘great’ above refers to the sun only.

[61] ἄγου δέ μ’, ὦ Ζεῦ, καὶ σύ γ’ πεπρωμένη, | ὅποι ποθ’ ὑμῖν εἰμὶ διατεταγμένος. | ὡς ἕψομαι γ’ ἄοκνος· ἢν δέ γε μὴ θέλω | κακὸς γενόμενος, οὐδὲν ἧττον ἕψομαι Epict. Manual 53; ‘duc, o parens celsique dominator poli, | quocunque placuit; nulla parendi mora est. | adsum impiger. fac nolle, comitabor gemens, | malusque patiar, quod pati licuit bono. | ducunt volentem fata, nolentem trahunt’ Sen. Ep. 107, 11. The translation given above is by G. H. Rendall (M. Aurel. Introd. p. lxvii).

[62] Clem. Strom. v 3, 17 (Arnim i 559).

[63] Clem. Protrept. vi 72 (Arnim i 557).

[64] Stob. iii 6, 3 (Arnim i 573).

[65] See below, § 317.

[66] As, for instance, Zeller does when he writes ‘Cleanthes was adapted to uphold his master’s teaching, but he was incapable of expanding it more completely, or of establishing it on a wider basis’ Stoics, p. 41.

[67] Hirzel, Untersuchungen, ii pp. 134 sqq.; Stein, Psychologie der Stoa, i 65-72, 162-171, ii 316-332.

[68] Sen. Ep. 113, 23.

[69] Diog. L. vii 174.

[70] ib. 134.

[71] ‘Cleanthes ipsum mundum ... deum dicit esse’ Cic. N. D. i 14, 37.

[72] Arnim i 497, 511.

[73] ‘ultimum et altissimum et omnia complexum ardorem, qui aether nominetur’ Cic. as in note 71.

[74] Cic. N. D. ii 15, 41.

[75] ‘sic res se habet, ut omnia, quae alantur et quae crescant, contineant in se vim caloris, sine qua neque ali possent neque crescere’ ib. 9, 23.

[76] ‘haec (quae Zeno dixit λόγον esse) Cleanthes in spiritum congerit quem permeatorem universitatis affirmat’ Tert. Apol. 21 (Arnim i 533).

[77] The substance of this doctrine is attributed to Zeno also: Ζήνων ... πνεῦμα ἔνθερμον εἶναι τὴν ψυχήν Diog. L. vii 157.

[78] See below, § 277.

[79] Pearson, Introd. p. 45; below, § 362.

[80] Arnim i 143.

[81] There is a slight inconvenience, but also a real advantage, in using this term both in its philosophic sense for the governing part of the soul, and historically for the system of government founded by Augustus. There is a genuine analogy between the two, though it is not developed by the Latin writers. Seneca uses principale only.

[82] ἡγεμονικὸν δὲ τοῦ κόσμου Κλεάνθει μὲν ἤρεσε τὸν ἥλιον εἶναι Euseb. pr. ev. xv 15, 7 (Arnim i 499); and see below, § 201.

[83] Κλεάνθης [τὸν θεὸν] τὴν τοῦ κόσμου ψυχήν Aët. i 7, 17 (Arnim i 532); ‘totius naturae menti atque animo tribuit hoc nomen [dei]’ Cic. N. D. i 14, 37.

[84] ‘Cleanthes ipsum mundum deum dicit esse’ ib.

[85] Cic. N. D. ii 5, 13-15; and see below, ch. x.

[86] See below, § 195.

[87] εἰ τοῖς πολλοῖς, εἶπε, προσεῖχον, οὐκ ἂν ἐφιλοσόφησα Diog. L. vii 182.

[88] ἐγὼ δὲ τἄλλα μακάριος πέφυκ’ ἀνὴρ | πλὴν εἰς Κλεάνθην· τοῦτο δ’ οὐκ εὐδαιμονῶ Diog. L. vii 179.

[89] ib. 182.

[90] ib. 179.

[91] ‘num contentus est [Chrysippus] docere, rem ostendere, definire, explorare? non est contentus: verum auget in quantum potest, exaggerat, praemunit, iterat, differt, recurrit, interrogat, describit, dividit, personas fingit, orationem suam alii accommodat’ Fronto, ep. ad Ant. p. 146 (Arnim ii 27).

[92] ὅθεν φασὶν ἐπ’ αὐτοῦ λεχθῆναι, εἰ μὴ γὰρ ἦν Χρύσιππος, οὐκ ἂν ἦν στοά Diog. L. vii 183.

[93] Diog. L. vii 180.

[94] ‘de quo queri solent Stoici, dum studiose omnia conquisierit contra sensus et perspicuitatem ... ipsum sibi respondentem inferiorem fuisse; itaque ab eo armatum esse Carneaden’ Cic. Ac. ii 27, 87; cf. Plut. Sto. rep. x 3 and 4.

[95] ‘ab Chrysippo nihil magnum nec magnificum desideravi, qui suo quodam more loquitur, ut omnia verborum momentis, non rerum ponderibus examinet’ Cic. Rep. iii 8, 12; ‘ad Chrysippi laqueos revertamur’ de Fato 4, 7; ‘Chrysippus, penes quem subtile illud acumen est et in imam penetrans veritatem, qui rei agendae causa loquitur et verbis non ultra quam ad intellectum satis est utitur, totum librum his ineptiis replet’ Sen. Ben. i 3, 8; ‘magnum mehercule virum, sed tamen Graecum, cuius acumen nimis tenue retunditur et in se saepe replicatur’ ib. 4, 1.

[96] ‘quod est bonum, omne laudabile est; quod autem laudabile est, omne est honestum; bonum igitur quod est, honestum est’ Cic. Fin. iii 8, 27.

[97] See below, §§ 162, 163.

[98] ‘Arcesilas primum ... ex variis Platonis libris sermonibusque Socraticis hoc maxime arripuit, nihil esse certi quod aut sensibus aut animo percipi possit’ Cic. de Orat. iii 18, 67. See above, § 71.

[99] ὁ προσέχων τῷ εὐλόγῳ κατορθώσει καὶ εὐδαιμονήσει Sext. math. vii 158.

[100] ‘cum Chrysippus, Academicos refellens, permulto clariora et certiora esse dicat, quae vigilantibus videantur, quam quae somniantibus’ Cic. Div. ii 61, 126; see further, § 147.

[101] See below, § 346.

[102] See Pearson, Cle. fr. 42.

[103] According to Stob. ii 7, 6 e this term was used by all the Stoic teachers.

[104] Used by Chrysippus, see Arnim iii 473.

[105] Diog. L. vii 88.

[106] φύσιν δὲ Χρύσιππος μὲν ἐξακούει, ᾗ ἀκολούθως δεῖ ζῆν, τήν τε κοινὴν καὶ ἰδίως τὴν ἀνθρωπίνην ib. vii 89.

[107] μέρη γάρ εἰσιν αἱ ἡμέτεραι φύσεις τῆς τοῦ ὅλου ib. 87.

[108] See above, § 71.

[109] δίδωσι τοῖς βουλομένοις τὰ προηγμένα καλεῖν ἀγαθά Plut. Sto. rep. 30, 4.

[110] Philo, inc. mund. 15, p. 248 (Arnim iii Boëth. 7).

[111] τὸν μὲν γὰρ τούτου [sc. Chrysippi] μαθητὴν καὶ διάδοχον τῆς σχολῆς Ζήνωνά φασιν ἐπισχεῖν περὶ τῆς ἐκπυρώσεως τῶν ὅλων Ar. Did. fr. 36 Diels (Arnim iii Z. T. 5).

[112] Diog. L. vii 35.

[113] Ind. Sto. Herc. col. 48 (Arnim iii Z. T. 2).

[114] See Zeller, Stoics etc., p. 50.

[115] See below, § 115.

[116] ‘aliud Diogeni Babylonio videri solet, magno et gravi Stoico, aliud Antipatro, discipulo eius, homini acutissimo’ Cic. Off. iii 12, 51; ‘Antipater inter magnos [Stoicae] sectae auctores’ Sen. Ep. 92, 5.

[117] Plut. de garr. 23.

[118] τὸ εὐλογιστεῖν ἐν τῇ τῶν κατὰ φύσιν ἐκλογῇ Diog. L. vii 88; for the Academic view see § 71 above.

[119] See below, §§ 159, 332.

[120] Cic. Off. iii 13, 54; 23, 91.

[121] Rep. iii 20, 30.

[122] ‘tu cum hominibus consulere debeas, ... celabis homines’ Off. iii 13, 52.

[123] ‘Antipater ... aliquid se tribuere dicit externis, sed exiguum admodum’ Sen. Ep. 92, 5.

[124] Plut. Sto. rep. 2, 5.

[125] Diog. L. vii 30.

[126] Arnim iii p. 259; see also Pauly-Wissowa sub voce.

[127] So Diog. L. vii 39, where however others read Ἀπολλόδωρος καὶ Σύλλος.

[128] Diog. L. vii 121.

[129] ib. vi 104.

[130] Ind. Stoic. Herc. col. 53: also a pupil of Antipater; to be distinguished from an Apollodorus of Athens who was an Epicurean; Diog. L. vii 181.

[131] ‘duo vel principes dialecticorum, Antipater et Archedemus, opiniosissimi homines’ Cic. Ac. ii 47, 143.

[132] πάντα τὰ καθήκοντα ἐπιτελοῦντα ζῆν Diog. L. vii 88.

[133] Sandys, Classical Scholarship, i pp. 155, 156.

[134] ib. p. 157.

[135] Diog. L. vii 121.

[136] See below, §§ 122, 123.

[137] Arnim iii p. 268.

[138] Diog. L. vii 39.

[139] ib. 76.



Growth of the Stoic ‘sect.’

112. In the third century B.C. Stoicism won adherents slowly and one by one, as individuals were convinced by reasoning and example. In the second century its progress became more rapid, for it was reinforced by inheritance and social influence. Fathers handed down its doctrine to their sons, and teachers to their pupils. Groups of men united by a common respect for the school and its founders began to associate together, not only at Athens, but also (as we may well infer from the list of names given at the end of the last chapter) at such centres as Pergamus, Babylon, Seleucia, Tarsus, Sidon, and even Alexandria[1]. Thus out of the school there grew up the ‘sect’ (secta); that is, a society of men drawn from different nations and ranks, but sharing the same convictions, united by a bond of brotherhood, and feeling their way towards mutual consolation and support; a company going through life on the same path, and prepared to submit to a common authority[2]. The spread of the sect was rapid though quiet; and as we cannot expect to trace its history from place to place, we are unable to say when first it found adherents at Rome. But early in the second century B.C. Rome entered into close political relations with two of the most highly civilized states of Asia Minor, Pergamus and Rhodes; and through the men of learning and taste who were associated with these communities Stoicism was introduced to[100] the ruling class at the centre of the new empire, to win there an easy conquest which proved no slight compensation for the political subordination of the states from which its emissaries had sprung.


113. We have already noticed[3] that the Stoic Crates, the head of the library established at Pergamus, visited Rome in 159 B.C. and there gave lectures on literature, in which he may perhaps have taken occasion to expound at least the chief doctrines of the Stoic school. Only a few years later, in 155 B.C., the celebrated embassy from Athens, which included the heads of three of the chief philosophical schools at that time, arrived in Rome. Diogenes of Seleucia represented the Stoics, Critolaus the Peripatetics, and Carneades the Academic school; and all three expounded their respective theories before enormous audiences. We are told that Diogenes made a good impression by his sober and temperate style[4]. Thus the way was prepared for the more permanent influence of Panaetius of Rhodes (circ. 189-109 B.C.)[5]. He was a gentleman of position in the wealthy and well-governed island state, and in early youth pursued his studies at Pergamus, so that he was probably attracted to the school by Crates[6]. From Pergamus he passed to Athens, where he found established the three teachers already named, and attached himself to Diogenes[7], and after his death to his successor Antipater[8]. His writings shew that he was also much influenced by the teaching of Carneades. But more than any of his predecessors he appreciated philosophy in its literary form. Plato, the ‘Homer of philosophers,’ he held in veneration[9]; from Aristotle, Xenocrates, Theophrastus and Dicaearchus he constantly quoted[10]. His admiration for these[101] philosophers greatly influenced his style, and caused him to reject the stiff and paradoxical form used by his predecessors[11]; it also led to the surrender of some characteristic Stoic doctrines in favour of the teaching of Plato and Aristotle[12]. His studies extended to every branch of philosophy, including astronomy[13] and politics[14]. The latter interest brought him into association with Polybius the historian, with whom he held frequent discussions as to the best form of government; the two learned and experienced Greeks agreed in their admiration for the constitution of Rome[15]. Panaetius visited Rome, and there became the intimate friend of Scipio Africanus minor: this friendship must have begun before the year 140 B.C., when Panaetius accompanied Scipio on a mission to settle the affairs of the East[16]; it lasted till the death of Scipio in 129 B.C. Round Scipio and his Greek friends Polybius and Panaetius there gathered a society of the noblest and most intelligent men of Rome; and in this circle the Latin language as well as Greek philosophy found a new birth. At the time of Scipio’s death Panaetius became the head of the Stoic school at Athens, and held this position till his own death twenty years later[17]. Amongst his friends and pupils were men who took a leading part in the government of their native cities[18].

His ethical teaching.

114. Panaetius may well be regarded as the founder of Roman Stoicism, and is of special interest to us as the writer of the treatise (περὶ καθήκοντος) which Cicero has freely translated in his de Officiis. He sets before us[102] Stoicism as the school which will train the scholar, the gentleman, and the statesman, whilst he shrinks from those bolder doctrines, borrowed from the Cynic school, which conflict with that which is conventional, or, as their opponents say, with that which is becoming. The central doctrine that virtue is knowledge, and is the sole and sufficient good, he accepts as the plain teaching of nature; and with it the paradox that the wise man never errs[19]. Yet even these maxims are somewhat toned down as he expresses them; and external advantages appear to him worthy of pursuit, not only as giving a meaning to virtue and providing a field for its exercise, but also for their own sake, so long as they do not conflict with virtue[20]; and he perhaps hesitated to assert positively that ‘pain is no evil[21].’ In his treatises the figure of the wise man is withdrawn to the background; he is practically concerned only with the ‘probationer’ (ὁ προκόπτων), who is making some advance in the direction of wisdom. This advance is not made by acts of perfect virtue, but by regular performance of ‘services’ (καθήκοντα, officia), the simple and daily duties which come in the way of the good citizen[22]. Further, scientific investigation must not become the main end of life, as perhaps it seemed to Aristotle; it is permitted only as a recreation in the well-earned intervals between the calls of active life[23].

His views on physics.

115. It does not appear that Panaetius devoted much attention to logic[24]; on the other hand he was much occupied with that part of philosophy which deals[103] with the history of the universe and its government by divine providence[25]. The Heraclitean theory he appears to have left altogether on one side; for he rejected the theory of the conflagration[26], as Boethus had done before him, accepting the objection of Carneades that ‘if everything turned into fire, the fire would go out for lack of fuel[27].’ He therefore joined the Peripatetics in holding that the universe is immortal[28]; but since again Carneades has shown that ‘no living thing is immortal,’ it follows that the world is not an animal, nor is the deity its soul[29]. Upon all these subjects Panaetius ceased to maintain Stoic doctrines; and, alone amongst Stoic teachers, he ‘suspended his judgment’ as to the reality of divination[30].

Concession in ethics.

116. Similar concessions to his opponents mark his treatment in detail of ethics. Thus he takes from Aristotle the view that ‘virtue is a mean between two vices’; and this doctrine, so alien from true Stoic principle, forms the basis of the treatment which we find adopted in the de Officiis. The theory of the four ‘cardinal virtues,’ Wisdom, Justice, Courage, and Soberness, was probably common property at this time; but whereas in Cynism Courage and in the earlier Stoicism Wisdom are the dominant virtues, in the theory of Panaetius Soberness, identified with decorum, far exceeds the rest in practical importance. Thus the triumph won by Panaetius for the name of Stoicism was purchased by the sacrifice not only of its physics, but very largely of its ethics also; and the success of the new system might not unfairly be described as a victory of literature over logic, of reasonableness over reason, and of compromise over consistency. However this may be, Panaetius undoubtedly succeeded in presenting Greek philosophy to his[104] Roman friends in a form in which it recommended itself alike to their reasoning powers and to their moral sense.


117. The virtual, though not the nominal, successor of Panaetius was Posidonius of Rhodes[31] (circ. 135-51 B.C.[32]), who after studying under Panaetius at Athens travelled widely, finally settling at Rhodes, and there took an active part in political life. Like his master, he was a devoted student of Plato, and he wrote a commentary on the Timaeus. In this commentary he developes a new theory of the universe, which he asserts to be that which Plato had learnt from the Pythagoreans, and to be at root the same as that taught by the Stoics. The starting-point is the μονάς or unit; from this are evolved the numbers and the elements by a principle of flux, as in the system of Heraclitus[33]. The unity and the first of the numbers, the two, differ as force and matter; so that the dualism of Aristotle is here definitely subordinated to a supreme monism. This study of Posidonius is therefore incidentally of high importance as a side-light on Stoic metaphysics and cosmology. In addition he wrote on almost all the principal divisions of philosophy, thus acquiring a brilliant reputation, particularly in the eyes of the philosophic nobles of Rome. Cicero made his acquaintance at Rhodes in 78 B.C., and refers to him more often in his works than to any other of his instructors[34]. Pompey, in the midst of his eastern campaigns, put himself to much trouble to visit him[35]. Amongst his Roman visitors and admirers were also Velleius, Cotta, and Lucilius[36]. A century later, Seneca looked back to him as one of those who had made the largest contribution to philosophy[37].

His teaching.

118. As compared with the more scientific Panaetius, Posidonius marks a reaction in favour of the religious side of Stoicism[38]. Thus it comes about that Cicero bases on his work ‘on gods’ (περὶ θεῶν) his own statement of the[105] Stoic theology in the second book of his de Natura deorum[39]. Posidonius restores the theory of Divination, as to which Panaetius had held the gravest doubts[40]. He strongly asserts the divine origin of the soul, and accepts the Persian view that in this life it is imprisoned in the body[41]. He affirmed the future conflagration[42], and found this theory not inconsistent with a belief in the pre-existence and the immortality of the individual soul.

In physics and logic alike Posidonius upholds the doctrine of the Logos, and it appears that it passed directly from him to Philo of Alexandria, and so into Judaeo-Christian speculation. In ethics he maintained the sufficiency of virtue[43], and re-defined it in the spirit of Cleanthes rather than of Chrysippus[44]. In the practical application of such doctrines to cases of conscience he disliked the lax views of Diogenes, and sided rather with Antipater and Panaetius[45]. Finally he held that the ideal Republic had already been achieved in the golden age, when the wise had ruled for the protection and happiness of their subjects[46].


119. Hecato of Rhodes was also a pupil of Panaetius: he wrote books on ethics and casuistry which were largely used by Cicero and by Seneca, both of whom frequently refer to him by name. In laying the foundations of his ethics he distinguishes between the ‘theoretic virtues,’ such as Wisdom, Justice, Courage and Soberness, which call for the assent of the individual, and are possessed only by the wise man, and the corresponding ‘non-theoretic virtues,’ which are dispositions of body found also amongst the unwise; as health which corresponds to temperance, and so forth[47]. By this extension of the[106] conception of virtue the doctrine of its sufficiency is rendered easy of acceptance[48]. In the practical application of his theory he laid great stress on the doctrine of ‘relations’ (σχέσεις), that is on duties towards parent, wife, child, slave, country, and so forth[49]. In order to be in a position to perform these duties a man is entitled to care for his own life and property[50]. He need not be too careful to provide for his slaves if provisions are dear[51]; nor should he too hastily give up for another his chance of escape from a shipwreck[52]. Hecato therefore seems rather to side with Diogenes in questions of casuistry, taking a lax view where Antipater and Panaetius would be inclined to a more altruistic standpoint.

The unsectarian philosopher.

120. The three teachers of Rhodes appear to us as men of great learning and of wide interests, and not without original force; on the other hand we cannot say that they made any very large contributions towards the discussion of the great problems of philosophy. Apart from them we find little trace of creative ability in the school during the first century B.C. There were however numerous teachers occupied in expounding and defending the doctrines of the school, and their special interest lay in the controversies between the Porch and the Academy. From these there resulted a temporary fusion of the two schools. Their respective names and dogmas remained unaltered; but attention was no longer given to the great differences of principle which divided them. Learning, politics, and social influences alike were at work, not to solve the great controversies, but to throw a mist over them. From these circumstances there emerged the type which we now call the ‘eclectic,’ but which the Romans called simply the ‘philosopher’; that is, the man who drew practical wisdom from all sources alike, binding himself to the dogmas of no school, but winning his way by aptness of discourse and sympathy[107] of manner to social importance[53]. We have but a limited interest at the present day in these ephemeral reputations; the type is still with us, both in the preacher whose sympathies are given with equal readiness to half-a-dozen warring denominations, and in the politician who emphasizes his connexion by birth with three or four nationalities and as many grades of society. Nor are we called upon to question the usefulness of this blurring of differences. We must however remark that so far as our immediate subject is concerned, the fusion was equivalent to a defeat of Stoicism by the Academy. That nothing can be definitely proved; that a man may choose his principles at the bidding of his fancy; that an argument may be sufficiently sound for practical purposes even when there exists a counter-argument of almost equal strength; that the problems of dialectics, physics, and ethics may be discussed separately, instead of being treated as parts of one whole; all these are the points for which the Academic contended with as much consistency as his system allowed, and which every philosopher, whether or not he called himself a Stoic, conceded when he began to combine the teachings of diverse systems.

Lesser Stoics.

121. After the death of Panaetius the school at Athens appears to have been conducted by Dardanus and Mnesarchus, both of Athens, jointly[54]; later we find at its head Dionysius of Cyrene, who enjoyed a great reputation as a mathematician, and was a vigorous opponent of Demetrius the Epicurean[55]. About the same time[56] Athenodorus the elder of Tarsus (circ. 130-60 B.C.) became librarian at Pergamus; he made use of his position to erase from Zeno’s works those passages (probably from the Republic) which were repugnant to the Stoic teaching of his own time; he was however detected and the passages in question were restored[57]. It appears also that he counselled withdrawal from the vexations of public life, a policy by no means consistent with the teaching of[108] Zeno, and for which he is rebuked by Seneca[58]. From him we first hear the practical precept which both Seneca and Juvenal echo, to ask nothing of the gods that you cannot ask openly[59]. In his old age he left Pergamus and came to reside at Rome with M. Porcius Cato in B.C. 70. Amongst the younger friends of Cato were Antipater of Tyre, who wrote on practical ethics, and died at Athens about 45 B.C.[60]; and Apollonides, with whom he conversed on the subject of suicide shortly before his death[61]. From Diodotus Cicero received instruction in Stoicism before 88 B.C.[62]; he conceived a great affection for him, and invited him to live in his house[63]: he remained there till his death in 59 B.C., when he left Cicero a considerable property[64]. In his old age he was blind, but he continued his studies, and in particular that of mathematics, as ardently as ever[65]. Apollonius of Tyre wrote a biography of Zeno, from which Diogenes Laertius often quotes[66]. To this period perhaps belongs Hierocles, who was bitterly opposed to Epicurus on account of his choosing pleasure as the end of life, and still more for his denial of providence[67].


122. We have little reason to regret that only fragments at most remain to us of the works of these philosophers, since Cicero presents to us a comprehensive view not only of the doctrines they professed, but also of the criticisms which their opponents passed upon them, and again of the replies they made to these criticisms. In carrying out this work for Stoicism and its rival systems Cicero not only created the philosophic terminology of the future by his translations of technical terms from Greek into Latin, but also established a[109] new style of philosophic discussion. By the friendly tone of his dialogues, placed in the mouths of men whose common interest in Greek studies made the divergencies of the schools to which they belonged a secondary matter; by the amplitude of his style, which gives itself time and space to approach a difficult conception from many points of view; and by the simplicity of his language and illustrations, which assumes that every philosophical contention can be plainly and forcibly put before the average man of letters, he has set an example of the art of exposition which has perhaps not been surpassed since[68]. His most systematic expositions of Stoic doctrine are as follows. In the Academica a general view of Zeno’s teaching is given by M. Varro (i 10, 35 to 11, 42), and the Stoic logic, as accepted by Antiochus[69], is defended by L. Licinius Lucullus (ii 1, 1 to 19, 63). In the de Natura deorum (bk ii) the Stoic physics is explained by Q. Lucilius Balbus; in the de Finibus (bk iii) the Stoic ethics by M. Porcius Cato, as the most distinguished Roman who has adopted them as a standard of life. In the de Officiis Cicero adopts the form of a letter addressed to his son when studying at Athens, and avowedly adapts the substance of the work of Panaetius already mentioned, supplementing it from a memorandum of the teaching of Posidonius which was specially prepared for him by Athenodorus Calvus[70]; this book deals with ethics mainly in its practical applications. In many of his other works, such as the de Amicitia, de Senectute, Tusculan disputations, de Fato, de Divinatione, and Paradoxa, Cicero makes use of Stoic material without giving professedly an exposition of the Stoic system.

Areius Didymus.

123. The school to which Cicero finally attached himself was that founded by Antiochus of Ascalon (circ. 125-50 B.C.)[71],[110] who under the name of the ‘old Academy’ taught doctrines which were practically indistinguishable from those of the diluted Stoicism which now prevailed, avoiding only the dogmatic temper and a few of the paradoxes of the Stoics[72]. This appears to have been the prevailing tone of philosophical discussion from the fall of the Republic to the death of Augustus. Brutus (the ‘tyrannicide’), though family and political associations have linked his name with that of Cato, was in his philosophical opinions a follower of Antiochus[73]. Not very different were probably the views of two teachers, nominally Stoics, who held high positions in the household of Augustus. Athenodorus the younger of Tarsus (possibly the same as the Athenodorus Calvus mentioned in the last section) was a pupil of Posidonius, and whilst teaching at Apollonia counted amongst his pupils Julius Caesar’s great-nephew Octavius, who was afterwards to become the emperor Augustus. Octavius took his teacher with him to Rome, and he had the credit of exercising a restraining influence on his patron. In B.C. 30 he was sent in his old age to reform the government of his native city Tarsus. He appears to have written chiefly on popular moral subjects[74]. Areius Didymus of Alexandria[75], who was for a longer period installed in the household of Augustus[76], is of interest to us as the first of those who made excerpts from the works of earlier writers, and to him we owe most of the Stoic fragments found in the work of Stobaeus. He probably depended in the first instance on the writings of Antiochus of Ascalon. He was instrumental in saving his native town Alexandria when taken by Augustus in B.C. 30. It is[111] probable enough that his ‘Epitome’ was prepared for the use of Augustus, and provided the material for philosophical discussions at the banquet, such as those to which Horace so often refers[77]. Seneca tells us that he was acquainted with the inmost thoughts of the family of Augustus, and reports the language in which he consoled Livia upon the death of her son Drusus[78] (B.C. 9). He was succeeded by Theon of Alexandria, also a Stoic, who took a special interest in physiology.


124. We know from Horace that in the time of Augustus Stoic philosophers were found not only at the court, but also in the public lecture-room, and at the street-corners. Such were Stertinius[79], of whom the commentators say that he was the author of 120 books on Stoicism[80]; Crispinus[81], said to have been a bad poet[82]; and Damasippus[83]. In Horace’s amusing sketches we find the Stoic as he appeared to the unconverted. He has sore eyes, or else a troublesome cough[84]; he presses his teaching upon his hearers unreasonably and unseasonably. But in the reign of Tiberius we find these popular lecturers held in very high esteem. One of the most eminent was Attalus, of whom Seneca the philosopher gives us a glowing account. Seneca was the first each day to besiege the door of his school, and the last to leave through it. This philosopher must have exercised an extraordinary influence over the young men of his time. In his mouth the paradox ‘the wise man is a king’ seemed a modest statement; his pupils were half disposed to regard him as a god[85]. When he declaimed on the misery of human life, a deep pity for their fellow-men fell upon them; when he extolled poverty, they felt disposed to renounce their wealth; when he recommended the simple life, they readily abandoned the use of meat and wine, of unguents and of warm[112] baths[86]. Seneca quotes from him in full an address on the vanity of wealth, which shews his teaching to be very similar to that of the more famous Musonius[87]. He attached a special value to the discipline which hardships bring with them[88]. He incurred the dislike of Seianus, who defrauded him of his property and reduced him to the position of a peasant[89].


125. Our attention is next attracted by L. Annaeus Cornutus (circ. 20-66 A.D.), who was born in Africa, and entered the house of the Annaei, presumably as a slave. There he received his freedom, and became the teacher of the two poets Persius and Lucan; of these the former has left us an attractive account of his personality[90]. He wrote in Greek, and one of his works, ‘On the Nature of the Gods,’ is still extant. This book is a development of the system which we see followed by Cicero in the de Natura deorum (based upon Posidonius), by which a reconciliation is effected between the Stoic physics and the popular mythology. By means of etymology and allegory, all that is incredible or offensive in the old legends of the gods is metamorphosed into a rationalistic explanation of the phenomena of the universe. Thus Zeus is the soul of the universe, because he is the cause of life in all living things, Zeus being derived from ζῆν ‘live.’ Apollo is the sun, and Artemis the moon: Prometheus the providence that rules in the universe. Pan is the universe. Cronos consumes all his offspring except Zeus, for time consumes all except what is eternal. Hera, the air (Ἥρα from ἀήρ) is sister and wife of Zeus, because the elements of fire and air are intimately associated. The popularity of such a treatise goes far to explain to us the close connexion now becoming established between the Stoic philosophy and the practices of Roman religion.



126. Roughly contemporary with Annaeus Cornutus, but perhaps rather older, was the famous Latin writer L. Annaeus Seneca (circ. 4 B.C.-65 A.D.). Born in Corduba in Spain, he may have inherited simple tastes from his provincial origin; but it was the eloquence of Attalus which moved him to a deliberate choice of the philosophic life[91]. Under this influence he was at one time tempted to throw away his wealth; whilst the Pythagorean philosopher Sotion induced him to become for a time a vegetarian[92]. To the end of his days he adhered to the ‘simple life’; he felt an aversion to wine, oysters, and all luxurious food; he discarded hot baths and soft chairs as debilitating; and of perfumes he would have only the best, that is, none at all[93]. He was an ardent lover of books, and appears to us as the last Roman who made a systematic study of Stoicism in the original authorities, and thus grasped the system in its full extent. He did not however claim, like his teacher Attalus, to be a wise man; far from that, he laments that he is still in the deep waters of wickedness[94]. In an age when a governmental career was freely open to talent, Seneca’s powers and industry carried him to high political station, and greatly increased his inherited wealth. He played a part in the court of Claudius, and in time became the tutor, and ultimately the minister, of Nero. He did not possess the zeal of a reformer, and doubtless tolerated many an abuse, and often bowed his head before power even when linked with tyranny[95]. But if he did not imitate the unbending stiffness of Cato, we have still no reason to credit the personal calumnies that pursued him at court. Had his career as a whole been a discredit to his philosophical profession, we may feel sure that Juvenal would never have overlooked so sensational a contrast. For the last few years of his life he resigned political power, that he might devote himself to what he deemed a more important task, the exposition[114] of the practical teaching of Stoicism[96]. Finally he was, or appeared to be, drawn into a plot against the emperor, and was called upon in consequence to put an end to his life.

His style.

127. The literary style of Seneca was severely criticized by critics almost contemporary with him. Gellius tells us that in his time it was by many not thought worth while to read his writings, because the style was found to be vulgar, the matter characteristic of half-educated men, the argument petty and exaggerated[97]. Quintilian finds that much of his work is admirable, but much also is tainted by a striving for cheap effect and a want of solid knowledge[98]; and he thinks him in no way comparable to Cicero[99]. This judgment is generally maintained in the world of modern scholarship, with the result that Seneca’s works are not read in our schools and universities, and are little known even to professional scholars. On the other side we may set the extraordinary popularity of Seneca both in his own times[100] and in those of the Renascence. It is possible to argue that his style represents the true tendency of the Latin language in his day, and that it is in the direct line towards the modern style of French prose, generally considered the best in the world. As regards his matter it is not possible to deny that he repeats the same moral teaching many times in slightly altered form[101], and that he seldom gives us a continuous or thorough treatment of any important subject[102]. His writings may well be compared with articles in our periodical literature and the hebdomadal productions of our pulpits; they aim at immediate effect rather[115] than at the slow building up of ordered knowledge. Just for that reason they admirably illustrate for us Stoicism in its practical application to daily life; and the extraordinary popularity which they enjoyed for many centuries seems to shew that they are in touch with deeply-rooted instincts of humanity.

His independence.

128. Seneca claims to be an independent thinker, only adopting the views of Stoic masters because their arguments convince him[103]. Still he does not use the liberty he claims to assert any new principles, but only to deviate occasionally in the direction of popular views. Thus he frequently adopts some dogma of Epicurus or some Cynic paradox to point a moral, and appears unconscious of the deep-lying differences which keep these schools apart from Stoicism; and only in reply to some challenge does he state with any care the Stoic position. This is particularly the case with the problem of wealth, which both Epicurean and Cynic disparage, but the true Stoic is called upon to defend as a ‘thing of high degree.’ Yet when Seneca is called upon to defend his own possession of wealth he states his case with admirable clearness.

Weakening of Stoicism.

129. It is perhaps partly due to his style that it appears at times as if Seneca’s hold on Stoic doctrine was often weak. He has no real belief in conviction and scientific knowledge: ‘if we try to be exact everywhere, we shall need to keep silence; for there is something to be said against most statements[104].’ For the detailed Stoic system of logic he feels only contempt[105]. In physics however his interest is keen, probably under the influence of his favourite Posidonius: he sets forth with great clearness the theory of tone (τόνος, intentio)[106]: he eloquently maintains the existence of gods,[116] abandoning the traditional proofs, and basing his conviction upon the moral sense in man[107]: he holds firmly to the doctrine of the conflagration[108]. Still we have constant reason to doubt whether these beliefs are linked together in his mind by any consistent principle. His ethics are marked by a similar weakness: the Socratic ‘strength and force’ is wanting, and is replaced by a spirit of quietism and resignation. The important position which he has filled in Roman politics awakens no enthusiasm in himself, nor does the greatness of the Roman empire excite his admiration. His heart is in his books; to them he gives up entirely his closing years. His wise man will not go out of the way to mix in politics; rather he will carefully consider how he may avoid the dangers of social strife[109]. This enfeebled moral teaching is found also in the successors of Seneca, and in modern literature is constantly quoted as true Stoic doctrine. But though Seneca’s philosophy finds him many an excuse for his retirement, he would have been a more faithful disciple of Zeno and Cleanthes if he had borne the burden of public life to the end.


130. To the same period as Seneca belongs C. Musonius Rufus, in whom however we observe distinctly, what we may conjecture had also been the case with Attalus, that ethical teaching is becoming divorced from philosophical theory, and so the Cynic standpoint approached. Musonius was a preacher with a singular impressiveness of address. Speaking from the heart on matters of direct moral import, he won respect even from those who were least willing to be guided by him. He disdained the applause of his hearers, desiring instead to see each one tremble, blush, exult, or stand bewildered according as the address affected him[110]. ‘If you[117] have leisure to praise me,’ he said to his pupils, ‘I am speaking to no purpose.’ ‘Accordingly,’ said one of them, ‘he used to speak in such a way that every one who was sitting there supposed that some one had accused him before Rufus: he so touched on what was doing, he so placed before the eyes every man’s faults[111].’ Amongst his pupils were Aulus Gellius the antiquarian, Epictetus, and a certain Pollio who made a collection of his sayings (ἀπομνημονεύματα Μουσωνίου), of which extracts have been preserved for us by Stobaeus. They consist of moral maxims (χρεῖαι) such as ‘Live each day as if your last[112],’ ‘Nothing is more pleasurable than temperance[113],’ and discourses or ‘diatribes’ (διατριβαί) dealing with subjects such as discipline, endurance, marriage, obedience to parents, and so forth[114]. In elevation of standard these writings stand higher than those of the early Stoics; and the influence of Musonius was so great that we may almost regard him as a third founder of the philosophy.

His part in politics.

131. In public life Musonius played a conspicuous part; he was the Cato of his generation, trusted by all parties for his absolute rectitude of character, and respected for his fearlessness; but he was much less out of touch with the real conditions of the Roman world. When in A.D. 62 Rubellius Plautus found himself unable to quiet Nero’s suspicions of his loyalty, it was believed that Musonius encouraged him to await his end calmly, rather than attempt rebellion[115]. After the conspiracy of Piso, Musonius was banished from Rome by Nero, together with most of the eminent personalities of the capital[116]. On Nero’s death he returned to Rome, and when the armies of Vespasian and Vitellius were fighting in the suburbs of the city, the senate sent delegates to propose terms of peace. Musonius joined them, and ventured to address the common soldiers, expatiating on the blessings of peace, and sternly reproving them for carrying arms. He was roughly handled and forced to[118] desist. Tacitus speaks severely of this unseasonable display of philosophy[117]; and certainly Rome would not have been the gainer if the issue had remained undecided[118]. But that such an attempt was possible in defiance of all military discipline speaks much both for the courage of the speaker and for the respect in which his profession was held. Musonius continued to play an honourable part in public life during the reign of Vespasian, and retained the confidence of the emperor even at a time when his advisers secured his assent to a measure for expelling other philosophers from the capital[119].

Euphrates and Dio.

132. In the reigns of Titus and his successors pupils and converts of Musonius played not inconspicuous parts in public life. Amongst them was one Euphrates, of Tyre or Epiphania (circ. 35-118 A.D.), who in his day won all hearts and convinced all judgments. ‘Some persons,’ says Epictetus, one of his fellow-pupils, ‘having seen a philosopher, and having heard one speak like Euphrates—and yet who can speak like him?—wish to be philosophers themselves[120].’ Pliny made his acquaintance in his native land, and was filled with affection for the man. He found his style dignified and sublime; but especially he noticed its sweetness, which attracted even his opponents. His personal appearance was even more charming; he was tall, handsome, and the proprietor of a long and venerable beard. His private life was beyond reproach, and he was devoted to the education of his family of two sons and one daughter[121]. He appears to have completely achieved the reconciliation of philosophy with worldly success.

More ascetic in temper was Dio of Prusa (circ. 40-117 A.D.), who was first an opponent but afterwards a follower of Musonius[122]. A Stoic in theory, a Cynic in practice, he assumed the shabby cloak, and wandered as a physician of souls. His eloquence succeeded in calming a mutiny of soldiers which[119] followed on the death of Domitian, and won for him from a following generation the title of the ‘golden-mouthed.’ He was held in high honour both by Nerva and by Trajan. A large number of his harangues are still extant.[123]


133. The influence of such teachers was at any rate widespread, and if we suspect that Stoicism was already losing its intensive force as it extended the sphere of its influence, in this it did but obey what we shall see to be its own law of creative activity[124]. We still have to consider the two teachers who are of all the most famous and the most familiar; not however because they most truly express the substance of Stoicism, but because they have most deeply touched the feelings of humanity. These are Epictetus of Hierapolis (circ. 50-130 A.D.) and Marcus Aurelius, who later succeeded to the principate. The contrast between their positions has often excited comment, since Epictetus was born a slave, and only obtained his freedom in mature years, that is, after the death of Nero in 68 A.D. In reality it is characteristic of the times that so many men of foreign and even servile origin rose to positions of eminence and became the associates and teachers of men of high official rank. In the great slave households, in particular, of imperial Rome unequalled opportunities lay open to talent; the ‘educational ladder’ was everywhere set up to encourage the youth to make the best of his gifts. Further, just as young nobles were frequently enamoured of slave girls, so far superior to the ladies of their own class in wit, gentleness of manners, and loyalty in the face of all terrors and temptations[125]; so their elders found a delight in the company of the thoughtful and intellectual men who came to the front through the competition of the slave schools. Thus the emperor Claudius chose his ministers amongst his freedmen, provoking thereby the sneers of the Roman aristocracy, but greatly advancing the good government of the Roman empire; and it was Epaphroditus, himself a freedman of Nero, who sent the young Epictetus to study at the feet of[120] Musonius Rufus. Epictetus was a man of warm feelings and clear head; his addresses, recorded for us by his hearer Arrian, serve admirably to stimulate the domestic virtues and to keep alive the religious spirit; but his teaching lacks the force which befits the training of a statesman or a king. In logic he inclines too much to suspense of judgment, in ethics to resignation. But he did not altogether miss the Socratic force: in his youth he had gone about inquiring of his neighbours if their souls were in good health, and even when they replied ‘What is this to you, my good man? Who are you?’ he had persisted in giving trouble. Only when they raised their hands and gave him blows had he recognised that there was something wanting in his method[126]. Other young philosophers, he felt, lacked this energy, and were men of words, not deeds[127]. Like other philosophers, he was expelled from Rome by Domitian in A.D. 89, when he retired to Nicopolis; there he gave lectures till the time of his death[128].

His Cynism.

134. Epictetus was a vigorous opponent of the group of young philosophers who delighted to display their talent upon the intricacies of the Stoic logic, and in his early youth he was taken to task by his teacher Musonius for underrating this part of philosophy[129]. He came however to see the great importance of a thorough training in the methods of reasoning, so that in practical life a man should distinguish the false from the true, as he distinguishes good coins from bad. In physics he lays stress chiefly on theology, and the ‘will of God’ fills a large place in his conception of the government of the world. In his treatment of practical ethics he makes free use of illustrations from the social life of his own day: he finds examples of Socratic strength in the athlete and the gladiator; and he makes it clear that the true philosopher is not (as many believe the Stoics to hold) a man devoid of natural feeling, but on the contrary affectionate and considerate in all the relations[121] of life. He has a special respect for the Cynic, who appears in his lectures not as the representative of a differing philosophical system, but as philanthropist, teacher, comforter, and missionary. There is indeed in the addresses of Epictetus a complete fusion of Stoicism with Cynism; and we trace in them pictures not only of the Cynic system as a whole, but also of individual teachers like Antisthenes and Diogenes, profoundly different from and much more human than the representations of them familiar through other literature; they are in fact pictures of Cynic teachers passed down or idealized by the members of their own sect. By their side stand the pictures of Ulysses the sage and Heracles the purger of the world, as they must have been described from generation to generation by Cynic orators to their hearers amongst the poor and the unhappy.


135. In the second century A.D. the professed teachers of Stoicism must have been very numerous; with the death of Domitian persecution had passed away. The philosophers were everywhere held in high esteem, and in turn their whole influence was used in support of the existing state of society and the official religion. In the early part of the century Flavius Arrianus (circ. 90-175 A.D.) is the most eminent of Stoics; and it was noted that his relation to his teacher Epictetus much resembled that of Xenophon to Socrates. To him we owe the publication of the ‘discourses’ (διατριβαί) which he heard Epictetus deliver. In A.D. 124, when lecturing at Athens, he won the favour of the emperor Hadrian, and was appointed by him to high public offices, in which he shewed himself a wise administrator and a skilful general; in A.D. 130 he received the consulship; and later he withdrew to his native town of Nicomedia in Bithynia, where he filled a local priesthood and devoted himself to the production of works on history and military tactics. To Stoic doctrine he made no direct contribution.


After Arrian had given up the teaching of philosophy for public life Q. Junius Rusticus succeeded to the position he left vacant. To him, amongst other teachers belonging to various philosophical schools, was entrusted[122] the education of the future emperor M. Aurelius, who gives us the following picture of the teaching he received:

‘From Rusticus, I first conceived the need of moral correction and amendment; renounced sophistic ambitions and essays on philosophy, discourses provocative to virtue, or fancy portraitures of the sage or the philanthropist; learned to eschew rhetoric and poetry and fine language; not to wear full dress about the house, or other affectations of the kind; in my letters to keep to the simplicity of his own, from Sinuessa, to my mother; to be encouraging and conciliatory towards any one who was offended or out of temper, at the first offer of advances upon their side. He taught me to read accurately, and not to be satisfied with vague general apprehension; and not to give hasty assent to chatterers. He introduced me to the memoirs of Epictetus, presenting me with a copy from his own stores[130].’

In Rusticus we may confidently trace a successor of the school of Musonius and Epictetus.

Marcus Aurelius.

136. M. Aurelius Antoninus Pius (121-180 A.D.) is commonly spoken of as ‘the philosopher upon the throne,’ but this description may be misleading. Aurelius was in the first instance a Roman prince; to the institutions of Rome and to his own position as their chief representative he owed his chief allegiance. He was undoubtedly an apt pupil of the courtly philosophers by whom he was surrounded; he deliberately chose philosophy in preference to rhetoric, and of the various schools of philosophy his judgment ranked Stoicism highest. He was fairly well instructed, but by no means learned, in its doctrines; he adhered with sincerity, but without ardour, to its practical precepts. In the leisure hours of a busy life it was his comfort and his relaxation to express his musings in the form of philosophic reflections. But his attitude towards Stoicism is always that of a judge rather than that of an advocate; and much that the school received as convincing reasoning he rejected as ingenious pleading. Hence a large part of Stoic doctrine, and almost the whole of its detailed instruction, disappears from his view; but we have the advantage that the last of the Stoic writers brings out into clearer relief those features of this philosophy which could still rivet attention in his own time,[123] and which therefore form part of the last message of the ancient world to the coming generations.

His belief in the cosmos.

137. It follows at once from the judicial attitude of Marcus Aurelius that he cannot countenance the Stoic claim to certainty of knowledge. The objection of opponents that the wise man, who alone (according to Stoic theory) possesses such knowledge, is nowhere to be found, is sustained:

‘Things are so wrapped in veils, that to gifted philosophers not a few all certitude seems unattainable. Nay to the Stoics themselves such attainment seems precarious; and every act of intellectual assent is fallible; for where is the infallible man[131]?’

Yet Aurelius does not relapse into scepticism. One doctrine at least is so convincing that he cannot for a moment doubt it; it does after all shine forth as true by its own light. It is that all things are ultimately one, and that man lives not in a chaos, but in a cosmos:

‘All things intertwine one with another, in a holy bond; scarce one thing is disconnected from another. In due coordination they combine for one and the same order. For the world-order is one made out of all things, and god is one pervading all, and being is one, and law is one, even the common reason of all beings possessed of mind, and truth is one: seeing that truth is the one perfecting of beings one in kind and endowed with the same reason[132].’

From the belief in a cosmos he is led on to a trust in Providence; theoretically, because the doctrine of the chance clashing of atoms is out of harmony with the belief in ultimate unity; practically, because in such a conviction only man can find a starting-point for his own activity. The choice is to him all-important; either Fortune or Reason is king, and claims allegiance from all.

‘Is it the portion assigned to you in the universe, at which you chafe? Recall to mind the alternative—either a foreseeing providence, or blind atoms—and all the abounding proofs that the world is as it were a city[133].’

‘The world is either a welter of alternate combination and dispersion, or a unity of order and providence. If the former, why crave to linger on in such a random medley and confusion? why take thought for anything[124] except the eventual “dust to dust”? why vex myself? do what I will, dispersion will overtake me. But on the other alternative I reverence, I stand steadfast, I find heart in the power that disposes all[134].’

His piety.

138. Aurelius makes full use of the Stoic proofs of the existence of the gods, but it soon appears to us that his attachment to the established religion was not in any way founded upon philosophical arguments. In discussing this point he displays a certain heat which we have not yet had occasion to notice:

‘If indeed they [the gods] take no thought for anything at all—an impious creed—then let us have done with sacrifice and prayer and oaths, and all other observances by which we own the presence and the nearness of the gods[135].’

Finally, he breaks away altogether from philosophy and rests his convictions on personal experience:

‘To those who press the question, “Where have you seen the gods, whence your conviction of their existence, that you worship them as you do?” I reply—first, they are visible even to the bodily eye; secondly, neither have I set eyes upon my soul, and yet I do it reverence. So it is with the gods; from my continual experience of their power, I have the conviction that they exist, and yield respect[136].’

One further argument he held in reserve; the sword, the cross, and the stake for the ‘atheists’ who refused to be convinced. He was, after all, a king[137].


139. In ethics, Aurelius states the main principles of Stoicism with clearness; but he altogether ignores the Stoic paradoxes, and does not trouble himself with any detailed theory of the virtues and vices. Firmness of character is to him the supreme good.

‘Be like the headland, on which the billows dash themselves continually; but it stands fast, till about its base the boiling breakers are lulled to rest. Say you, “How unfortunate for me that this should have happened”? Nay rather, “How fortunate, that in spite of this, I own no pang, uncrushed by the present, unterrified at the future!” The thing might have happened to any one, but not every one could have endured it without a pang[138].’


But in spite of these doctrines, we trace throughout his pages a tinge of melancholy. Too apt a pupil of Epictetus, he had learnt from him the principles of submission and resignation, but he had not acquired the joyous confidence of an older period, through which the wise man, even if a slave, felt himself a king. Rather, though a king, he felt himself in truth a slave and a subject to the universe that was his master. He would not go against the universal order, but he hardly felt the delight of active cooperation. In this sense he represents to us the decadence of Stoicism, or (to put it more correctly) Stoicism coloured by the decadence of Rome.

Absorption of the soul.

140. On the question of continued existence after death Aurelius takes up and emphasizes the teaching of Epictetus, ignoring the fact that other Stoic teachers, from Zeno to Seneca, had taken larger views or at least allowed themselves an ampler language. There had been, indeed, a change in the point of view. The early Stoics, occupied with the question of physics, had insisted upon the indestructibility of substance, and the reuniting of the ‘spirit’ (πνεῦμα) with the all-pervading spirit from which it came at the beginning. The Roman school concerned itself more with the question of individuality and personality. Accepting fully the principle that that which is born must die, it comes to the definite conclusion that that which we trace from the mother’s womb through infancy and youth, through success and failure in life, through marriage and the family ties onwards to weakness and dotage, must reach its end in death. The ‘I’ cannot survive the body. The future existence of the soul, if such there be, is no longer (as with Seneca) a matter of joyful expectation, but of complete indifference.

Epictetus had expressed this with sufficient clearness:

‘Death is a change, not from the state which now is to that which is not, but to that which is not now. Shall I then no longer exist? You will not exist, but you will be something else, of which the world now has need; for you also came into existence, not when you chose, but when the world had need of you[139].’


Aurelius constantly repeats the doctrine in varied forms:

‘You exist but as a part inherent in a greater whole. You will vanish into that which gave you being; or rather, you will be re-transmuted into the seminal and universal reason[140].’

‘Death put Alexander of Macedon and his stable boy on a par. Either they were received into the seminal principles of the universe, or were alike dispersed into atoms[141].’

Preparation for death.

141. The saddened outlook of Marcus Aurelius upon life harmonizes well with the resignation with which he contemplates a death, which for himself individually will be the end. Hence it is that his reflections so often make the thought of death a guiding principle of ethics; he who has learnt to look forward calmly to his last act has learnt thereby to abide patiently all the troubles which postpone it. Thus the last message of the princely philosopher, as of his predecessor, is that men should ‘bear and forbear’:

‘Contemn not death, but give it welcome; is not death too a part of nature’s will? As youth and age, as growth and prime, as the coming of teeth and beard and grey hairs, as begetting and pregnancy and the bearing of children, as all other operations of nature, even such is dissolution. Therefore the rational man should not treat death with impatience or repugnance or disdain, but wait for it as one of nature’s operations[142].’

‘O for the soul ready, when the hour of dissolution comes, for extinction or dispersion or survival! But such readiness must proceed from inward conviction[143].’

‘Serenely you await the end, be it extinction or transmutation. While the hour yet tarries, what help is there? what, but to reverence and bless the gods, to do good to men, “to endure and to refrain”? and of all that lies outside the bounds of flesh and breath, to remember that it is not yours, nor in your power[144].’

His yearnings.

142. Aurelius was no teacher of Stoicism in his time: his thoughts are addressed to himself alone[145]. But the happy accident that has preserved this work, which for nine centuries was lost to sight[146], enables us to obtain a view of this philosophy from which otherwise we should have[127] been shut out. We do not go to Aurelius to learn what Stoic doctrine was; this is taken for granted throughout the book; but we can see here how it affected a man in whom the intellectual outlook was after all foreshortened by sympathies and yearnings which had grown up in his nature. The traditional criticism of the school as being harsh, unsympathetic, unfeeling, breaks to pieces as we read these ‘thoughts’; rather we find an excess of emotion, a surrender to human weakness. A study of Stoicism based on the works of Aurelius alone would indeed give us but a one-sided picture; but a study in which they were omitted would certainly lack completeness. He is also our last authority. In the centuries which succeeded, other waves of philosophic thought washed over Stoicism, and contended in turn with more than one religion which pressed in from the East. Yet for a long time to come Stoic principles were faithfully inculcated in thousands of Roman homes, and young men taught in childhood to model their behaviour upon the example of Zeno, Cleanthes, and Epictetus formed the salt of the Roman world. If in riper years they joined, in ever increasing numbers, the Christian church, they brought with them something which the world could not afford to lose.


[1] Dill, Roman Society, p. 340.

[2] ‘omnis natura habet quasi viam quandam et sectam quam sequatur’ Cic. N. D. ii 22, 57. ‘est tuae prudentiae sequi eius auctoritatem, cuius sectam atque imperium secutus es’ ad Fam. xiii 4, 2. ‘The sense of the word has been obscured by a false popular etymology which has connected the word with the Latin secare ‘to cut,’ Skeat, Etymological Dictionary, p. 537.

[3] See above, § 111.

[4] ‘dicebat modesta Diogenes et sobria’ A. Gellius N. A. vi (vii) 14, 10.

[5] For a full account of his life and teaching see Schmekel, Philosophie der mittleren Stoa, pp. 1-9.

[6] Strabo xiv 5, 16.

[7] Ind. Stoic. Herc. col. 51.

[8] ‘discipulus Antipatri Panaetius’ Cic. Div. i 3, 6.

[9] ‘credamus igitur Panaetio a Platone suo dissentienti? quem omnibus locis divinum, quem sapientissimum, quem sanctissimum, quem Homerum philosophorum appellat’ Tusc. disp. i 32, 79.

[10] Fin. iv 28, 79.

[11] ‘tristitiam atque asperitatem fugiens Panaetius nec acerbitatem sententiarum nec disserendi spinas probavit’ ib.

[12] ἦν γὰρ ἰσχυρῶς φιλοπλάτων καὶ φιλοαριστοτέλης, ἀ[λλὰ κ]αὶ παρ[ενέδ]ωκε τῶν Ζηνων[είω]ν τι δι[ὰ τὴ]ν Ἀκαδημίαν καὶ [τὸν Περίπ]ατον. Ind. Herc. col. 61, quoted by Schmekel, p. 379.

[13] ‘quam vellem Panaetium nostrum nobiscum haberemus! qui cum cetera, tum haec caelestia vel studiosissime solet quaerere’ Cic. Rep. i 10, 15.

[14] ‘ain’ tandem? etiam a Stoicis ista [de optima republica] tractata sunt? non sane, nisi a [Diogene Stoico] et postea a Panaetio’ Leg. iii 6, 14.

[15] See below, § 310, note 52.

[16] ‘[accepi] Publi Africani in legatione illa nobili Panaetium unum omnino comitem fuisse’ Cic. Ac. ii 2, 5.

[17] This date is determined on circumstantial evidence by Schmekel, pp. 2, 3.

[18] ‘Scylax Halicarnasseus, familiaris Panaeti, excellens in astrologia, idemque in regenda sua civitate princeps’ Cic. Div. ii 42, 88.

[19] ‘omnes enim trahimur et ducimur ad cognitionis et scientiae cupidinem; in qua excellere pulchrum putamus; labi autem, errare, nescire, decipi, et malum et turpe ducimus’ Off. i 6, 18; ‘cum sit is [Panaetius], qui id solum bonum iudicet, quod honestum sit, quae autem huic repugnent specie quadam utilitatis, eorum neque accessione meliorem vitam fieri, neque decessione peiorem’ ib. iii 3, 12.

[20] ‘quod summum bonum a Stoicis dicitur, id habet hanc, ut opinor, sententiam, cum virtute congruere semper, cetera autem, quae secundum naturam essent, ita legere, si ea virtuti non repugnarent’ Off. iii 3, 13.

[21] ‘Panaetius, cum ad Q. Tuberonem de dolore patiendo scriberet ... nusquam posuit non esse malum dolorem’ Fin. iv 9, 23; see however below, § 322, note 132.

[22] See below, ch. xiii.

[23] ‘cuius [veri investigationis] studio a rebus gerendis abduci contra officium est. virtutis enim laus omnis in actione consistit; a qua tamen fit intermissio saepe, multique dantur ad studia reditus’ Cic. Off. i 6, 19.

[24] He was however a skilled grammarian; see Schmekel, p. 207.

[25] He wrote a book ‘on providence’; how far he or Posidonius is Cicero’s authority for the treatment of the subject in Nat. de. ii has been much disputed; on this point see Schmekel, p. 8, n. 4.

[26] ‘id de quo Panaetium addubitare dicebant, ut ad extremum omnis mundus ignesceret’ Cic. N. D. ii 46, 118.

[27] Schmekel, p. 309, and below, § 211.

[28] Παναίτιος πιθανωτέραν εἶναι νομίζει καὶ μᾶλλον ἀρέσκουσαν αὑτῷ τὴν ἀϊδιότητα τοῦ κόσμου ἢ τὴν τῶν ὅλων εἰς πῦρ μεταβολήν Ar. Did. fr. 36 (Diels).

[29] Schmekel, p. 309.

[30] ‘vim esse divinandi [Panaetius] dubitare se dixit’ Cic. Div. i 3, 6.

[31] He came from Apamea in Syria, but is often described as ‘of Rhodes,’ as the latter part of his life was spent there.

[32] Schmekel, pp. 9, 10.

[33] ib. p. 428.

[34] Reid, Cic. Acad. Introd. p. 5.

[35] Cic. Tusc. disp. ii 25, 61.

[36] N. D. i 44, 123; ii 34, 88.

[37] ‘ecce Posidonius, ut mea fert opinio, ex his qui plurimum philosophiae contulerunt’ Sen. Ep. 90, 20.

[38] See below, § 195.

[39] Also the de Divinatione and the first half of Tusc. disp. i; Schmekel, p. 98, etc.

[40] ‘de divinatione libros edidit ... quinque noster Posidonius’ Cic. Div. i 3, 6.

[41] ‘animi vitae necessitatibus serviunt, disiunguntque se a societate divina, vinclis corporis impediti’ ib. 49, 110.

[42] ‘deflagrationem futuram aliquando caeli atque terrarum’ ib. 49, 111.

[43] See § 322, note 132.

[44] ὁ Ποσειδώνιος [τὸ τέλος εἶναι εἶπε] τὸ ζῆν θεωροῦντα τὴν τῶν ὅλων ἀλήθειαν καὶ τάξιν Clem. Strom. ii p. 416 B (Schmekel, p. 270); see also below, § 321, note 125.

[45] Schmekel, p. 62.

[46] See below, § 214.

[47] Diog. L. vii 90; Schmekel, pp. 291, 292.

[48] Diog. L. vii 127.

[49] Schmekel, p. 294.

[50] See below, § 352.

[51] ‘plenus est sextus liber de officiis Hecatonis talium quaestionum; sitne boni viri in maxima caritate annonae familiam non alere? in utramque partem disputat, sed tamen ad extremum utilitate officium dirigit magis quam humanitate’ Cic. Off. iii 23, 89.

[52] ib. 23, 90.

[53] ‘nullius addictus iurare in verba magistri, | quo me cunque rapit tempestas, deferor hospes’ Hor. Ep. i 1, 14 and 15.

[54] ‘qui erant Athenis tum principes Stoicorum’ Cic. Ac. ii 22, 69; cf. de Or. i 11, 45.

[55] Ind. Stoic. Herc. col. 52 (Schmekel, p. 16); but see Pauly-Wissowa s. v.

[56] i.e. the earlier part of the first century B.C.

[57] Diog. L. vii 34.

[58] ‘mihi nimis videtur submisisse temporibus se Athenodorus, nimis cito refugisse’ Sen. Dial. ix 4, i.

[59] ‘apud Athenodorum inveni:—tunc scito esse te omnibus cupiditatibus solutum cum eo perveneris, ut nihil deum roges, nisi quod rogare possis palam’ Ep. 10, 5. But it is possible that the quotations are from the younger Athenodorus.

[60] Cic. Off. ii 24, 86; but some think that Cato’s friend was an earlier Antipater.

[61] Plutarch, Cato minor 65-67 and 69.

[62] Reid, Academics, p. 2.

[63] ‘Diodoto quid faciam Stoico, quem a puero audivi, qui mecum vivit tot annos, qui habitat apud me, quem et admiror et diligo?’ Cic. Ac. ii 36, 115.

[64] ad Att. ii 20, 6.

[65] Tusc. disp. v 39, 113.

[66] vii 1, 2, 24 and 28.

[67] ‘verba haec Hieroclis Stoici, viri sancti et gravis: ἡδονὴ τέλος, πόρνης δόγμα· οὐκ ἔστιν πρόνοια, οὐδὲ πόρνης δόγμα’ A. Gellius, N. A. ix 5, 8.

[68] For a fair-minded estimate of Cicero’s services to philosophy see Reid, Academics of Cicero, pp. 10-28.

[69] See next section.

[70] ‘de tertio [cum utile et honestum inter se pugnare videantur] nihil scripsit [Panaetius]. eum locum Posidonius persecutus. ego autem et eius librum arcessivi, et ad Athenodorum Calvum scripsi, ut ad me τὰ κεφάλαια mitteret’ Cic. ad Att. xvi 11, 4. ‘Athenodorum nihil est quod hortere; misit enim satis bellum ὑπόμνημα’ ib. 14, 4.

[71] He was head of the Academy at Athens, where Cicero heard him in the year 79-78 B.C., and was patronized by Lucullus.

[72] ‘eadem dicit quae Stoici’ Cic. Ac. ii 22, 69. ‘erat, si perpauca mutavisset, germanissimus Stoicus’ ib. 42, 132. See further J. S. Reid, Academics of Cicero, Introd. pp. 15-19, and notes to Ac. ii 39, 123 and 40, 126.

[73] ‘Brutus tuus, auctore Aristo et Antiocho, non sentit hoc [sc. nihil esse, nisi virtutem, bonum]’ Tusc. disp. v 8, 21. ‘si addubitas, ad Brutum transeamus, est enim is quoque Antiochius’ ad Att. xiii 25, 3. See also below, § 432.

[74] ‘tu nihil errabis, si paulo diligentius (ut quid sit εὐγένεια, quid ἐξοχή intelligas), Athenodorus Sandonis filius quid de his rebus dicat, attenderis’ ad Fam. iii 7, 5.

[75] For the identification of the writer Didymus with Areius the ‘philosophus’ of Augustus, see Diels, Proleg. pp. 80-88.

[76] ‘[Augustus] eruditione etiam varia repletus per Arei philosophi filiorumque eius Dionysi et Nicanoris contubernium’ Suet. Aug. 89.

[77] Sat. ii 6, 73-76.

[78] Sen. Dial. vi 4 and 5; see below, § 377.

[79] ‘Empedocles, an Stertinium deliret acumen’ Hor. Ep. i 12, 20; ‘insanis et tu, stultique prope omnes, | si quid Stertinius veri crepat’ Sat. ii 3, 32 and 33.

[80] Teuffel, Röm. Lit. 250, 4.

[81] ‘ne me Crispini scrinia lippi | compilasse putes’ Hor. Sat. i 1, 120 and 121.

[82] Teuffel, as above, 3.

[83] Hor. Sat. ii 3.

[84] Hor. Ep. i 1, 108.

[85] ‘sublimem altioremque humano fastigio [Attalum] credidi’ Sen. Ep. 108, 13.

[86] Sen. Ep. 108, 14-16.

[87] ib. 110, 14-20.

[88] ‘Attalus Stoicus dicere solebat; malo me fortuna in castris suis quam in deliciis habeat’ ib. 67, 15.

[89] Sen. Rhet. Suas. 2, 12.

[90] ‘teneros tu suscipis annos | Socratico, Cornute, sinu ... tecum etenim longos memini consumere soles, | et tecum primas epulis decerpere noctes. | unum opus et requiem pariter disponimus ambo, | atque verecunda laxamus seria mensa. | ... nescio quod certe est, quod me tibi temperat, astrum’ Pers. Sat. v 36-51.

[91] See above, § 124.

[92] Sen. Ep. 108, 17.

[93] ib. 13-23.

[94] ‘sapientem esse me dico? minime’ Dial. xii 5, 2; ‘multum ab homine tolerabili, nedum a perfecto, absum’ Ep. 57, 3; ‘ego in alto vitiorum omnium sum’ Dial. vii 17, 4.

[95] ‘si respublica corruptior est quam ut adiuvari possit, ... non nitetur sapiens in supervacuum’ ib. viii 3, 3.

[96] ‘in hoc me recondidi et fores clusi, ut prodesse pluribus possem. posterorum negotium ago. illis aliqua, quae possint prodesse, conscribo. salutares admonitiones litteris mando, esse illas efficaces in meis ulceribus expertus. rectum iter, quod sero cognovi et lassus errando, aliis monstro’ Ep. 8, 1 to 3.

[97] ‘cuius libros adtingere nullum pretium operae sit, quod oratio eius vulgaria videatur et protrita, res atque sententiae aut inepto inanique impetu sint aut levi et causidicali argutia, eruditio autem vernacula et plebeia’ A. Gellius, N. A. xii 2, 1.

[98] Quint. Inst. Orat. x 1, 125-158.

[99] ‘potioribus praeferri non sinebam’ ib. 126.

[100] ‘tum autem hic solus fere in manibus adulescentium fuit’ ib. 125.

[101] ‘eandem sententiam miliens alio atque alio amictu indutam referunt’ Fronto, p. 157.

[102] How capable Seneca was of continuous exposition we may gather from his excellent discussion of the ‘causes’ of Aristotle and Plato, in Epistle 65: see below.

[103] ‘non quia mihi legem dixerim nihil contra dictum Zenonis Chrysippive committere, sed quia res ipsa patitur me ire in illorum sententiam’ Sen. Dial. viii 3, 1; ‘nostram [opinionem] accipe. nostram autem cum dico, non adligo me ad unum aliquem ex Stoicis proceribus. est et mihi censendi ius’ ib. vii 3, 2.

[104] ‘si omnia argumenta ad obrussam coeperimus exigere, silentium indicetur; pauca enim admodum sunt sine adversario’ Sen. N. Q. iv 5, 1.

[105] ‘non tempero mihi, quominus omnes nostrorum ineptias proferam’ ib. iv 6, 1.

[106] See the notes to § 177.

[107] ‘si hominem videris interritum periculis, intactum cupiditatibus, inter adversa felicem, in mediis tempestatibus placidum, ex superiore loco homines videntem, ex aequo deos, non subibit te eius veneratio?... non potest res tanta sine adminiculo numinis stare’ Ep. 41, 4 and 5.

[108] See below, § 209, note 112.

[109] ‘idem facit sapiens; nocituram potentiam vitat, hoc primum cavens, ne cavere videatur’ Ep. 14, 8; ‘circumspiciendum ergo nobis est, quomodo a vulgo tuti esse possimus’ ib. 9.

[110] A. Gellius, N. A. v 1, 3 and 4.

[111] Epict. Disc. iii 23, 29.

[112] Stob. iii 1, 48.

[113] ib. 5, 21.

[114] Specimens are given below, especially in ch. xv.

[115] Tac. Ann. xiv 59; Henderson, Nero, p. 143.

[116] Tac. Ann. xv 71.

[117] Hist. iii 81.

[118] ‘reipublicae haud dubie intererat Vitellium vinci’ ib. 86.

[119] See below, § 447.

[120] Disc. iii 15, 8; Manual 29.

[121] Pliny, Ep. i 10.

[122] ‘quid nostra memoria Euphrates, Dio, Timocrates, Athenodotus? quid horum magister Musonius? nonne summa facundia praediti, neque minus sapientiae quam eloquentiae gloria incluti extiterunt?’ Fronto, Ep. ad Aur. i 1 (Naber, p. 115).

[123] See Leben und Werke Dion’s von Prusa, by H. von Arnim. Berlin, 1898.

[124] See below, § 216.

[125] See the story of Epicharis in connexion with the conspiracy of Piso, in Tac. Ann. xv 57.

[126] Epict. Disc. ii 12, 17 to 25.

[127] ‘plerosque istos, qui philosophari viderentur, philosophos esse eiuscemodi “ἄνευ τοῦ πράττειν, μέχρι τοῦ λέγειν”; id significat “factis procul, verbis tenus” A. Gellius, N. A. xvii 19, 1.

[128] ib. xv 11, 4 and 5.

[129] Epict. Disc. i 7, 32 and 33.

[130] M. Aurelius, To himself, i 7 (Rendall’s translation).

[131] To himself, v 10.

[132] ib. vii 9.

[133] ib. iv 3.

[134] M. Aurelius, To himself, vi 10.

[135] ib. vi 44.

[136] See further, §§ 457 and 458.

[137] M. Aurelius, To himself, xii 28.

[138] ib. iv 49.

[139] Epict. Disc. iii 24, 93 and 94.

[140] M. Aurelius, To himself, iv 14.

[141] ib. vi 24.

[142] ib. ix 3.

[143] ib. xi 3.

[144] ib. v 33.

[145] Rendall, M. Aurelius, Introd. p. cxii.

[146] ib. cxv.



Parts of philosophy.

143. The history of Greek philosophy, even before the time of Zeno, leads naturally to its division into the three parts of logic, physics, and ethics[1]. The Ionic philosophers had chiefly occupied themselves with the nature and history of the universe, that is, with the problems of physics. The sophists were greatly concerned with questions as to the validity of human knowledge, that is, with logic. Socrates shared this interest, but attached greater importance to the discussion of moral activities, that is, to ethics. It is however not clear when a formal division into these three parts was first made. Cicero attributes it to the immediate followers of Plato in the Academic school; others assign it definitely to Xenocrates[2]. The Peripatetics and Stoics both adopted the division, but whereas the former assigned to Logic an inferior position, making it an introduction to philosophy, the Stoics insist that it is a part of philosophy itself[3]; and that of the three parts it comes first in the order of study, ‘as in the measuring of corn we place first the examination of the measure[4].’ It must not however be thought that the three parts of philosophy can be separately treated, for they are intertwined[5]; so that in treating of Logic we shall constantly have need to assume a general knowledge of Stoic views both on physics[129] and ethics. Logic is subdivided into ‘dialectic,’ which deals with reasoning, and ‘rhetoric,’ the art of speech. The relation between reason and speech was in ancient times, as now, a matter of perplexity; but it may be taken as a fundamental position of Stoicism that the two should always be in agreement.

Knowledge is attainable.

144. Stoicism, as one of the positive and dogmatic schools, assumes that knowledge is attainable. Since this is the very point on which Socrates never reached assurance, except on the one particular that he himself knew nothing, it was a matter of primary importance to the Stoics to make good this position; more especially since they held (this time in agreement with Socrates) that virtue is but another form of knowledge. Yet the Stoics could not agree with the Cynics, that true knowledge can be imparted without a study of its method[6]. Knowledge is, in their view, a high privilege derived by man from his divine ancestry, and shared by him with the deity alone; and the whole duty of man may be summed up by saying that he should keep upright his reason[7]. They therefore devoted themselves with special zeal to this part of philosophy[8], and were accordingly nicknamed ‘the dialecticians[9].’ Their aim in this was solely the ascertainment and imparting of truth; but the common view that their style was in consequence harsh and repellent will be found to need considerable qualification[10].

Are the senses true?

145. The chief argument for the certainty of knowledge is that we assume as much in the practical affairs of life[11]; and (as we have already seen) Aristo found it ridiculous that his Academic neighbour should not even know who he was[12]. Against it is the fact that men frequently[130] disagree even as to what they see, and commonly distinguish between what is known to them and what ‘seems’ to be this or that. Hence Epictetus well defines the function of dialectic as

‘a perception of the disagreement of men with one another, and an inquiry into the cause of this disagreement; a condemnation and distrust of that which only seems, and some kind of investigation of that which seems, as to whether it rightly seems: and the discovery of some rule (κανών)[13].’

Of all kinds of knowledge that which comes through the senses appears to the ordinary man most worthy of confidence, and of the five senses that of sight seems to the philosopher the most divine[14]. In consequence, the whole controversy hinges on the question whether the eyes can be trusted. The positivist argues that the evidence of sight is so plain and unmistakeable that man, if he had the choice, could wish for no better informant. The sceptic replies that nevertheless, if a straight oar be placed partly in the water, it appears to the eyes to be bent; and that the feathers on a dove’s neck, though really alike, appear to the eyes as many-coloured[15]. To deal with such questions we must examine closely the nature of sensation.

Process of sensation.

146. The Stoics fancifully derive the word αἴσθησις (‘sensation’) from εἴσθεσις (‘storage’); it is therefore, strictly speaking, the process by which the mind is stored[16]; but it is also, from an opposite point of view, the process by which the mind reaches out towards an external object[17]. From the object (αἰσθητόν) proceed waves which strike upon the sense-organ (αἰσθητήριον); this impact is called a ‘sensation’ in a narrower sense. At the same time there proceeds from the mind (which is the ruling part or ‘principate’ of the soul), a ‘spirit’ or thrill which goes out to meet[131] this impact; and this spirit and its operation are also called ‘sensation[18].’ As a result of the contact of these two waves, and simultaneously with it, there is produced in the soul an effect like the imprint of a seal[19], and this imprint is the φαντασία or ‘mind-picture.’ That the process may be sound, it is necessary that the intellect be in a healthy state, and further that the organ of sense be healthy, the object really there, and the place and the manner in accord[20]. But we must carefully distinguish between the single sensation and the mind-picture. A flash of light, a cry, a touch, a smell, a thrill of pleasure or pain, is always that which the senses declare it to be[21]; here there is no possibility of error; so understood ‘the sensations are always true[22].’ But if we go in each case a step further; if we say ‘that is white,’ ‘this is sweet,’ ‘this is musical,’ ‘this is fragrant,’ ‘that is rough,’ we are now dealing with mind-pictures, not with ‘sensations’ in the strict sense[23]. And as to the mind-pictures we agree with the Academics that things are not always what they seem; ‘of the mind-pictures some are true, some are false[24].’

The criterion of clearness.

147. In order then that we may distinguish the true mind-picture from the false, we have need of a ‘rule’ (κανών) or ‘criterion’ (κριτήριον). The true mind-picture is a stirring of the soul, which reveals both what is taking[132] place in the soul and the object which has caused this: just as light reveals both itself and the objects that lie within its range[25]. On the other hand the false mind-picture is an empty twitching of a soul which is not in a healthy condition[26]; no real object corresponds to it, but to that which appears to be an object corresponding to it we give the name ‘phantasm[27].’ When Orestes thinks he sees the Furies leaping upon him, though his sister assures him that in real truth he sees nothing, the vision of the Furies is a phantasm. The appearances of dreams are equally phantasms[28]. Now a true mind-picture differs from that of a phantasm by being clearer; or, in other words, the distinctive note of a true mind-picture is its ‘clearness’ (ἐνάργεια, perspicuitas)[29]. Clearness then is a quality which attaches itself to a true vision in a way in which it can never attach itself to a work of phantasy[30]. To this clearness the mind cannot but bow[31]; it is therefore (so far as our study has proceeded) the criterion of truth[32].


148. The mind-picture as such is not within a man’s control; but it rests with him to decide whether he will give it his ‘assent’ (συγκατάθεσις, adsensio or adsensus)[33]. This assent is therefore an act of the soul, in its capacity as will; and can only be rightly exercised by a soul properly[133] strung, that is, possessed of due tension. Assent wrongly given leads to ‘opinion’ (δόξα, opinio), and all wrong assent is error or ‘sin’ (ἁμαρτία, peccatum). This error may take place in two directions, either by a hasty movement of the will (προπίπτειν), giving assent to a picture which is not really clear; or by feebleness of will, which leads to assent in a false direction (διαψεύδεσθαι)[34]. Even haste however is a form of weakness, so that we may say that all opining is a weak form of assent[35]. To ensure a right assent due attention should be given to each of its parts; it includes (i) the intention of mastering the object (πρόθεσις); (ii) careful attention directed to the object, or ‘application’ (ἐπιβολή); and (iii) assent in the narrower sense[36]. Apart from assent, three courses remain open: these are (i) ‘quiescence’ (ἡσυχάζειν, quiescere): (ii) ‘suspense of judgment’ (ἐπέχειν, adsensum sustinere), which is a settled quiescence; and (iii) negation[37].


149. Close upon assent follows ‘comprehension’ (κατάληψις, comprehensio): this is the ratification of the assent given, the fixing irrevocably in the mind of the picture approved. This picture now becomes a ‘comprehension-picture’ (καταληπτικὴ φαντασία), and as such a unit of knowledge. We may understand thereby that the mind has grasped the external object[38], and this is the plain meaning of Zeno’s simile; or we may say that the object has gained a hold upon the mind, and has left its stamp upon it. Both interpretations are consistent with Stoic doctrine: but the former view, which represents the soul as active and masterful, undoubtedly expresses the more adequately the meaning of the school[39].[134] From this mutual grasp there follows an important physical deduction. Since only like can grasp like, the soul must be like the object, and the popular dualism of mind and matter is (to this extent) at an end[40]. Still this likeness is not complete; and the soul in sensation does not grasp the object from every point of view, but only so far as its own nature permits in each case[41]. For this reason the trained observer and the artist grasp far more of the object than the ordinary man[42].

From sensation to reason.

150. The soul, having grasped single mind-pictures, retains its hold upon them by memory[43]; the frequent exercise of which keeps each picture fresh and complete[44]. As the air, when an orchestra is performing, receives the impression of many sounds at the same time, and yet retains the distinctive tone of each[45], so the soul by concurrent alterations of its texture preserves its hold on the separate pictures it has once grasped. Fresh operations of soul now supervene. First, from the comparison of many like pictures, comes ‘experience’ (ἐμπειρία, experientia)[46]; out of other comparisons, ‘similitude’ (ὁμοιότης), as ‘Socrates’ from his portrait; and ‘analogy’ (ἀναλογία, proportio), as ‘the centre of the earth’ from that of other spheres; ‘transference’ (μετάθεσις, translatio), as ‘eyes in the heart’; ‘composition’ (σύνθεσις, compositio), as ‘a Hippocentaur’; ‘opposition’ (ἐναντίωσις, transitio), as ‘death’ from life; ‘deprivation’ (κατὰ στέρησιν), as ‘a cripple[47].’ All[135] these are based on the general principle of likeness and unlikeness, and may be summed up under the general heading of ‘reason’s work of comparison’ (collatio rationis)[48], or shortly, of reason (λόγος)[49]. Sensation shews us the present only; but reason brings the past and the future within our view, and points out to us the workings of cause and effect[50].

Perceptions and Conceptions.

151. With the mind-pictures (φαντασίαι, visa) which are derived from sensation we may now contrast the ‘notions’ (ἔννοιαι, notiones or intellegentiae) which are derived from the combination of sensation and reasoning; the former correspond generally to ‘perceptions,’ the latter to ‘conceptions’ in the language of modern philosophy[51]. But each of the Stoic terms is also used in a wider sense which includes the other. The sensory pictures are inscribed upon the mind as upon a blank sheet from birth upwards; in this sense they may well be called ‘entries on the mind’ (ἔννοια from ἐν νῷ)[52]. On the other hand the conceptions may be called ‘rational mind-pictures’[53]; quite as much as the sensory mind-pictures they need the prudent assent of the will before they become ‘comprehensions,’ when they are once more units capable of entering into further combinations and becoming part of scientific knowledge. If then for the sake of clearness we use the modern terms, we may say that perceptions correspond[136] generally to individual objects which have a real existence, whilst conceptions correspond to classes of things, which (according to the Stoics) have no real existence in themselves, but only a sort of existence in our minds. Thus the ‘ideas’ of Plato are all conceptions, subjectively but not objectively existent[54]. So far as our study has gone, all conceptions are based on perceptions: therefore all the elements of knowledge either come from sense and experience solely, or from sense and experience combined with reasoning[55]; and the most important reasoning process is that comparison of like perceptions which in this philosophy takes the place of induction[56].


152. But even if all ‘conceptions’ are ultimately derived from ‘perceptions,’ it does not follow that in each particular case the mind commences de novo to collect and shape its material. On the contrary, it is clear that not only all practical life, but also all philosophy, takes for granted a great many matters which are either allowed by general consent, or at least assumed by the thinker; and these matters are mostly of the nature of class-conceptions. If it is stated that ‘the consul entered Rome in a chariot drawn by four horses,’ we assume that the ideas expressed by ‘consul,’ ‘chariot,’ ‘four,’ ‘horses,’ are matters of general consent, and we may go on to assume that the person of the consul and the locality called ‘Rome’ are also already known to the speaker and his hearers. The general term in the post-Aristotelian writers for such legitimate assumptions is ‘preconception’ (πρόληψις, anticipatio or praesumptio). The precise meaning of this term (of which the invention is ascribed to Epicurus[57]) appears not to be always the same. Most commonly the ‘preconception’ is a general term or conception, and therefore to the Stoics it is one variety of the ἔννοια; it is ‘a mental shaping, in accordance with[137] man’s nature, of things general’[58]. All such preconceptions are foreshadowings of truth, especially in so far as they correspond to the common judgment of mankind[59]; and the art of life consists in correctly applying these presumptions to the particular circumstances with which each individual man has to deal[60]. If the preconceptions are rightly applied, they become clearer by use, and thus attain the rank of true knowledge by a process of development or ‘unravelling’ (enodatio)[61].

As to the nature of a preconception, there is a great difference between Epicurus and the Stoics. Epicurus identifies all the terms ‘preconception,’ ‘comprehension,’ ‘right opinion,’ ‘conception,’ and ‘general notion,’ and maintains that each of these is nothing but memory of a sensation frequently repeated[62]; the Stoics however hold that preconceptions are established by the mind[63], and (so far as they are common to all men) by the universal reason. This difference is fundamental. Epicurus, as a materialist in the modern sense, explains perception as a bodily function, and ‘conceptions’ of every kind as mere echoes of such bodily functions. The Stoics on the other hand recognise at each stage the activity of mind, and this in increasing degree as we proceed to the higher levels of thought.

Notions of inner growth.

153. We now approach the most critical point in the Stoic theory of knowledge. Is it possible for man to possess knowledge which is not derived, either directly or indirectly, through the organs of sense? Such a[138] question cannot be answered by any appeal to single Stoic texts; it needs an appreciation of the whole philosophic outlook, and upon it depend the most vital principles of the system. Let us then first consider, on the supposition that such knowledge exists, what its nature is, what its content, and how it is attained by individual men. Knowledge cut off from the sense-organs is cut off from all human individuality; it is therefore the expression of the common reason (κοινὸς λόγος), and its parts are ‘common notions’ (κοιναὶ ἔννοιαι or προλήψεις), shared by gods and men, but by men only so far as they are partakers of the divine nature. The principal content of such knowledge is also clear; it includes the conception of what is morally good, and the beliefs that gods exist and that the world is governed by their providence[64]. Lastly, as of all general conceptions, the rudiments or rough outlines only of these beliefs are inborn in men, by virtue of their divine ancestry; whence they are called ‘innate notions’ (ἔμφυτοι ἔννοιαι, insitae notiones)[65]. These notions in their full development are not attainable by children at all, nor by men till they attain to reason, that is, till they become wise men[66].

‘Proofs’ of inborn notions.

154. The Stoics are naturally reluctant to admit that doctrines which it is impious to deny are nevertheless unattainable except by perfect wisdom; but their whole system points inevitably to this conclusion. But there are intermediate stages between the rough inborn outlines of these truths and their ripe completeness. As man grows in reason, he becomes increasingly able to appreciate contributory truths, derived from the combination of perception and reasoning, that is, by processes such as ‘analogy’ and ‘comparison,’ which point in the direction of the supreme beliefs. In this[139] sense, and (it is here suggested) in this sense only, can there be ‘proofs’ (ἀποδείξεις) of these[67]. Only in the crowning moment of that probation which is described later on, at the moment of conversion, these truths finally flash forth, stirred up indeed by secondary evidence, but really rooted in the man’s deepest nature[68]; they then reveal themselves to the soul with an illuminating power which is all their own, but which carries with it the most complete conviction. Ordinary men must meanwhile somehow make shift with reflections or pale copies of this knowledge, to which however the name of common or inborn notions can also be applied.

The inward touch.

155. The list of ‘common notions’ is doubtless not limited to the high philosophical principles which we have mentioned; for instance it must include such mathematical principles as ‘two and two make four,’ ‘a straight line is the shortest distance between two points,’ ‘a three-sided figure has three angles,’ and so forth. With these however we have little direct concern. Of more interest to us is another kind of perception[69] recognised by the Stoics as well as by other schools of philosophy, that called the ‘inward touch’ (ἐντὸς ἁφή)[70]. By this the soul becomes aware of its own workings, most obviously of its pleasure and pain. The doctrine of the ‘inward touch’ is of great philosophical importance, for it breaks down the dualism[140] of subject and object, the barrier between the knowing and the known. Since these are the same in the specific cases named, the door is open to the conclusion that everywhere there is a kinship between the two, and that without this knowledge would be without firm foundation. By this kinship we may also explain the fact that direct communications are made by the deity to man, as by dreams, oracles and augury[71].

Knowledge; the parts and the whole.

156. Thus it appears that the elements of knowledge, according to the Stoics, are sensations, perceptions, conceptions or notions, and general or inborn notions. As in the other parts of the Stoic philosophy, we shall regard this fourfold division as indicating generally the ground covered, and not as setting up definite lines of demarcation. The same material may be analyzed from other points of view, as for instance in the study of words, in which we shall find a division into objects, statements, conditional statements, and syllogisms. The elements may also be combined in various ways. A combination or ‘system’ (σύστημα) which is directed towards a useful or pleasurable object, such as music or grammar, is called an ‘art’ (τέχνη, ars)[72]; and arts are attainable by ordinary men. The wise man, on the other hand, is not necessarily acquainted with the several arts; his practice is to ‘keep quiet’ when matters are discussed which require such special knowledge. The combination of all knowledge in one all-embracing system is ‘science’ (ἐπιστήμη, scientia); the only science in the full sense is philosophy[73]; and in this system no part can be at variance with any other part[74]. The elements of knowledge also acquire the character of science, when they are found to be parts of this compacted system, and therefore incapable of coming into conflict with any other part[75]; and in[141] particular we find the term ‘science’ predicated of comprehensions which are firmly established and cannot be refuted by any argument[76]. In the language of Zeno’s simile, over the closed fist that grasps the object is placed the other hand, keeping it with firmness and assurance in its place[77]; or, to use a comparison first suggested in ridicule of Stoicism, but which by the progress of architectural skill has since then been made less damaging, science is like a firm and immoveable building constructed upon a shifting foundation[78]. Finally ordinary men can reach comprehension, but only the wise man can attain to science[79].

The criterion reviewed.

157. We revert to the difficult problem of the criterion of truth, that is, the discovery of a rule by which the true can separated from the false. Our authorities differ greatly as to what the Stoic criterion is; and this vacillation must have placed the Stoics at a great disadvantage in their controversy with the Academics, who maintain that there is no criterion. The most usual statement is that the ‘comprehensive mind-picture’ (καταληπτικὴ φαντασία) is the criterion; this view is expressly attributed to Chrysippus, Antipater, and Apollodorus[80]. As we have seen, the meaning of this is that a true mind-picture can be distinguished from one that is false by the note of clearness, and this general doctrine can be traced back to Zeno[81]. It appears at first sight to provide a criterion which can be applied by the percipient at the moment when it is needed, and it was doubtless intended to be a practical tool in this sense; but under the pressure of criticism the Stoics were frequently compelled to modify it. They could not but admit that in the case of dreams and drunken visions it is only at[142] a later moment that the lack of clearness can be appreciated[82]; whereas on the other hand a picture may be perfectly clear, and yet the percipient, because of some prepossession, may not realize this. Such was the case when Hercules brought Alcestis from the world below; her husband Admetus received a true mind-picture of her, but put no confidence in it, because he knew her to be dead. It follows that no mind-picture can be implicitly trusted for itself; for our sense organs may be clouded, or our previous experience in conflict with it. If the Academics urged that the sure note of clearness is not to be found in the senses[83], the Stoics admitted as much when they now said that a true comprehensive picture must come from a real object[84], when they added the words that ‘no objection must arise[85]’; thus really admitting that it must be not only persuasive, but also such as no reasoning process can shake, and such as has been examined from all sides[86]. Thus they shifted the centre of certainty from the single comprehension to the general field of science; they still held to it in theory, but no longer maintained its practical application. For this too they had the authority of the older masters. For we learn on the authority of Posidonius that ‘some of the older Stoics’ held the true criterion to be ‘right reason’ (ὀρθὸς λόγος)[87], and this is equivalent to saying that only the deity and the wise man possess the secret[88]. In a loose sense any important part of the Stoic[143] theory of reason may be said to be a criterion; thus Chrysippus again said that ‘the criteria are sensation and preconception,’ and Boethus set up many criteria, as mind, sense, science, and (in practical matters) appetite[89].

General consent.

158. Seeing that the full assurance of truth is not at every moment attainable, it is necessary to be contented from time to time with something less complete. Amongst such tests the ‘general consent of mankind’ plays an important part, especially in connexion with the dogma ‘that gods exist.’ We may indeed well believe that this criterion was not originally suggested by revolutionary philosophers, but rather by conservative advocates of an established religion; and therefore we are not surprised to see it emphasized first by Posidonius and afterwards by Seneca[90]. General consent is however by itself no proof of truth, but at most an indication of the presence of a ‘common notion’ in its rough shape. If however we see that the ‘common notion’ grows stronger and more clear every day, and if it is the more firmly held as men approach the standard of wisdom, it becomes a strong support[91].

Probability the guide of life.

159. From a very early period, as we have already indicated, Stoic teachers accepted probability as the guide of life in its details, being perhaps aided by the happy ambiguity of the expression ‘reasonableness’ (τὸ εὔλογον), which suggests formally the pursuit of reason, but in practice is a justification of every course of which a plausible defence can be brought forward. Ptolemy Philopator, we are told, jestingly put wax fruit before Sphaerus at his table, and when Sphaerus tried to eat it cried out that he was giving his assent to a false mind-picture. Sphaerus replied that he had not assented to the picture ‘this is fruit,’ but only to the picture ‘this is probably fruit[92].’ Antipater of Tarsus, when he explained[144] that the very essence of virtue lay in the choice of natural ends upon probable grounds[93], was felt to be giving way to Carneades[94]. Panaetius justified the maintaining of that which is plausible by the advocate, and Cicero, whose own conscience was not at ease in the matter, was glad enough to quote so respectable an authority on his own behalf[95]. In the Roman imperial period a growing spirit of humility and pessimism led to a general disparagement of human knowledge, centring in attacks on the trustworthiness of the senses. So Seneca speaks of the ‘usual weakness’ of the sense of sight[96], and Marcus Aurelius feels that ‘the organs of sense are dim and easily imposed upon[97].’ The older Stoics had admitted the frequent errors of the senses[98], but they had been confident they could surmount this difficulty. Their latest disciples had lost the courage to do this, and in consequence the practice of ‘suspension of judgment,’ which before had been the exception[99], became with them the rule. Nevertheless Epictetus, who alone amongst these later Stoics was an ardent student of dialectics, held fast to the main principle that certainty is attainable. ‘How indeed’ he said ‘perception is effected, whether through the whole body or any part, perhaps I cannot explain, for both opinions perplex me. But that you and I are not the same, I know with perfect certainty[100].’


160. Having now dealt with the theory of knowledge, we may consider briefly the subordinate sciences (or rather ‘arts’) of Grammar, Logic (in the narrower sense), and Style. Here we may leave the technical divisions and subdivisions of the Stoics; for these matters are substantially independent of the main lines upon which the ancient[145] philosophies parted company, and have for us only a secondary and historical interest. The Stoics distinguish five parts of speech: ‘name’ (ὄνομα, nomen), as ‘Diogenes’; ‘class-name’ (προσηγορία, appellatio), as ‘man, horse’[101]; ‘verb’ (ῥῆμα, verbum); ‘conjunction’ (σύνδεσμος, coniunctio); and ‘article’ (ἄρθρον, articulus). The last they define naïvely as a little word which is all ending, and serves to distinguish the cases and numbers[102]. To the list of the parts of speech Antipater added the ‘mixed part’ or participle (μεσότης). The noun has four cases (πτώσεις), the ‘upright case’ (πτῶσις εὐθεῖα, casus rectus; this is of course a contradiction in terms); and the ‘oblique’ cases (πλάγιαι), that is the ‘class’ case (γενική), the ‘dative’ (δοτική), and the ‘effect’ case (αἰτιατική). The ῥῆμα or verb is identical with the κατηγόρημα or ‘predicate,’ and may take the ‘active’ form (ὀρθά), the ‘passive’ (ὕπτια), or the ‘neuter’ (οὐδέτερα); some verbs also express action and reaction, and are called ‘reflexive’ (ἀντιπεπονθότα). The Stoics also distinguished the tenses. Time (χρόνος) being of three kinds, past (παρῳχημένος), present (ἐνεστώς), and future (μέλλων), we have the following tenses which are ‘definite’ (ὡρισμένοι): the ‘present imperfect’ (ἐνεστὼς ἀτελής), the ‘past imperfect’ (παρῳχημένος ἀτελής), the ‘present perfect’ (ἐνεστὼς τέλειος), and the ‘past perfect’ (παρῳχημένος τέλειος); in addition to these we have the ‘indefinite’ tenses, the future (μέλλων), and the past indefinite, called simply indefinite (ἀόριστος)[103].

Theories of speech.

161. So far we find in the Stoic system the general framework of the grammar of the period, much of it adapted with modifications from Aristotle. In some other details points of real grammatical or philosophical interest are raised. Such is the controversy between ‘anomaly,’ the recognition of the individuality of each word in its flexion, and ‘analogy,’ in which the validity of the rules of declension and conjugation is insisted upon. Two Stoic masters, Chrysippus[146] and Crates of Mallos, took up the cause of ‘anomaly[104].’ Further the Stoics held that all correct language exists by nature (φύσει), and not by convention (θέσει), as Aristotle had maintained; the elements of language being imitations of natural sounds[105]. Further, they held that the natural relation between ‘things’ (σημαινόμενα, significata) and the words that express them (σημαίνοντα, significantia) can frequently be determined by etymology; for instance φωνή ‘voice’ is φῶς νοῦ ‘the mind’s lamp,’ αἰών ‘age’ is ἀεὶ ὄν ‘enduring for ever[106].’ Like Heraclitus and Aristotle, the Stoics distinguished between ‘thought’ (λόγος ἐνδιάθετος, ratio) and ‘speech’ (λόγος προφορικός, oratio), which the Greek word λόγος tends to confuse[107]; thought is immaterial, but speech, as consisting of air in motion, is body[108]. Young children and animals do not possess real speech, but only ‘a sort of speech[109].’

Propositions and Syllogisms.

162. Words in combination form statements, questions, wishes, syllogisms, and so forth[110]; there is therefore no clear line drawn between what we call syntax and logic respectively. Whenever we have a complete combination of words expressing that which must either be false or true, as ‘Hannibal was a Carthaginian,’ ‘Scipio destroyed Numantia,’ we call it a ‘statement’ or ‘proposition’ (ἀξίωμα)[111]; for phrases of all kinds we have the more general term ‘phrase’ (λεκτόν, id quod dicitur)[112]. Of special interest is[147] the conditional sentence (συνημμένον), which has two parts, the conditional clause (ἡγούμενον) and the contingent clause (λῆγον). The conditional or leading clause always contains a sign (σημεῖον), by means of which we reach proof: thus in saying ‘if it is day, it is light’ we mean that ‘day’ is a sign of light. Proof is ‘speech on every subject gathering what is less clear from that which is more clear[113].’ Its most important form is the syllogism, of which Chrysippus recognises five forms:

All these matters admit of endless qualifications, subdivisions, and developments, and were therefore serviceable to those Stoics who were before all things makers of books[115]. Examples of Stoic syllogisms have been given above[116].


163. Closely connected with the theory of the syllogism is the enticing subject of the ‘resolution of fallacies’ (σοφισμάτων λύσις), which the Megarians had brought within the range of philosophy. To this subject the Stoics gave much attention[117]. The most famous fallacy is that of the ‘heap’ (σωρίτης, acervus); ‘if two are few, so are three; if three, then four; and so forth.’ In this Chrysippus took a special interest[118]; his reply was to keep still[119]. Another is the ‘liar’ (ψευδόμενος, mentiens); ‘when a man says “I lie,” does he lie or not? if he lies, he speaks the truth; if he speaks the truth, he lies[120].’ On this subject Chrysippus wrote a treatise, which[148] Epictetus thought not worth reading[121]. Seneca gives us examples of other fallacies, which also are verbal quibbles[122]. Of an altogether different kind are those problems in which the question of determinism as opposed to moral choice is involved. Such is the ‘reaper,’ which maintains ‘either you will reap or you will not reap; it is not correct to say “perhaps you will reap.”’ Such again is the ‘master-argument’ of Diodorus the Megarian, directly aimed against every moral philosophy[123]. These difficulties we shall discuss later as touching the supreme problems which are presented to the human reason[124].


164. The scientific study of syllogisms and fallacies promises at first sight to be a guide to truth and a way of escape from error, but experience shews it nevertheless to be barren. It has however an advantage in securing a careful statement of teaching, and for this purpose was much used by Zeno and Chrysippus. The later members of the school realized that this advantage could be more simply gained by the practice of careful definition (ὅρος, definitio). Antipater thus defined definition itself: ‘definition is an expression which elaborates in detail without falling short or going too far[125].’ He and all other Stoics of his time gave numerous definitions of the most important terms used in the system, such as God, fate, providence, the supreme good, virtue, and so forth; and these are of great value in giving precision to their doctrine.


165. In considering Style we first notice the distinction between dialectic in the narrower sense, in which statements are made in the shortest and most precise form, and rhetoric, in which they are expanded at length[126]. Zeno compared one to the closed fist, the other to the open palm[127]. Both Cleanthes and Chrysippus wrote upon rhetoric,[149] and it appears to have become a tradition to ridicule their teaching, chiefly on the ground of the novel terms which the Stoics introduced, as προηγμένα, κοσμόπολις[128]. But it is exactly in these new-fangled words that we observe one of the chief aims of the Stoic theory of style, namely the use of words which precisely and exclusively correspond to the objects described (κυριολογία, proprietas verborum), and which therefore lead up to transparent clearness of speech (σαφήνεια, pellucida oratio)[129]. To this clearness the study of grammar is contributory; ‘barbarisms’ (faults in spelling and pronunciation) must be avoided, with proper help from the doctrines of ‘anomaly’ and ‘analogy’; for the Stoics learnt in time that neither of these is exclusively true. Equally important is the avoidance of ‘solecisms,’ or faults in syntax. In this way a pure use of language (Ἑλληνισμός, Latinitas) is attained; this is largely based upon the example of older writers, such as Homer in Greek, and Cato the elder in Latin[130], but not to such an extent as to employ words not commonly intelligible. But little more is needed; the Stoic will say what he has to say with ‘brevity’ (συντομία, brevitas); the graces of style will be represented by ‘becomingness’ (πρέπον, decorum) and ‘neatness’ (κατασκευή), the latter including euphony. These virtues of speech are sufficient for speaking well, which is neither more nor less than speaking truthfully[131]; for the Stoic needs only to instruct his hearer, and will not lower himself either to amuse him or to excite his emotions[132]. Style has three varieties, according as it is employed in the council, in the law-courts, or in praise of goodness and good men[133]; in the last there was no[150] doubt greater room allowed for that expansiveness of speech which the Stoics specially designated as ‘rhetoric.’

The Stoic orator.

166. The ‘Stoic style’ was a severe intellectual and moral discipline. The speaker was called upon under all circumstances to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. He could hold back nothing from his audience, even though his words might be offensive to their religious opinions, their patriotic feelings, or their sense of decency; he could add no word which would touch their sympathies or kindle their indignation in the direction he himself might wish. He had always before his eyes the example of Socrates’ defence before the Athenian jury and its result. The Stoic appeared before his audience as a brave, sane, and rather rugged speaker, painfully ill-equipped in all those arts which the circumstances demanded[134]. Even the Stoics of the transition period, in spite of their Academic leanings and their literary acquirements, made this impression at Rome. Diogenes, who had himself done much to elaborate the theory of style, was noted as a quiet and self-restrained speaker[135]. The influence of Panaetius may be traced in his friend Lucilius, who in his book on style is never tired of ridiculing the artifices of rhetoricians. Then followed a succession of these reserved speakers, which we shall trace in another chapter, leading up to Cato of Utica, by far the best-known and the most ridiculed of them all[136].

It is not easy to form a fair judgment of the merits of the Stoic style. It must be admitted that the works of Chrysippus are not readable; but on the other hand Antipater, Panaetius, Posidonius, Musonius Rufus, and Epictetus were all writers or speakers of great attractiveness[137].


167. In connexion with style we may call attention to the important function of paradoxes (παράδοξα, inopinata), that is, propositions contrary to common[151] opinion. Since all philosophies conflict with common opinion, they must necessarily include many paradoxes[138]. The chief Stoic paradoxes are those which were borrowed directly from the Cynic school, and indirectly from the teaching of Socrates[139]: and Cicero devotes a special work to their defence. He includes the following: (i) that only what is honourable is good; (ii) that virtue is sufficient for happiness; (iii) that right actions and offences are equal; (iv) that all foolish men are mad; (v) that the wise man alone is free and every foolish man a slave; (vi) that the wise man alone is rich. These of course include the very pith and marrow of Stoic ethics; and the form is calculated to arrest the attention of the crowd and to challenge defiantly its cherished opinions. The Stoics of literary taste and social position usually shew some distaste for paradoxes, and prefer to state their teaching in ways more obviously reasonable. But it should hardly be necessary to explain that no paradox is complete in itself, but each needs to be interpreted according to the principles of the school which propounds it. In proportion as the doctrines of any school win general recognition, its paradoxes tend to find ready acceptance, and may ultimately become truisms[140].

The treatment of myths as allegories[141] may also be considered as the use of a kind of paradox; this we shall find it most convenient to discuss in connexion with Stoic views upon the nature of the gods.

Dangers of logic.

168. The study of logic is at first sight dismal and repulsive; when progress has been made in it, it seems illuminating; in the end it becomes so alluring, that the would-be philosopher may easily be lost for ever in its mazes[142]. The early Stoics had pressed this discipline upon[152] their pupils; those of the Roman period, themselves (with the exception of Epictetus) weak dialecticians, never cease to warn their hearers against its fascinations. So Seneca tells us that many logical inquiries have nothing to do with real life[143]; and that the older Stoics had wasted much time over them[144]; Epictetus complains that his hearers never get beyond the resolving of syllogisms[145], and M. Aurelius thanks the gods that he never wasted his time in this way[146].

Stoic and Academic logic.

169. It was a favourite contention of Cicero, adopted from his teacher Antiochus, that the Stoic dialectic was no original system, but only a modification of the views of the old Academy[147]. Such a conclusion seems partly due to the fact that the Stoics of his own time had largely borrowed from the Academic system in detail; and partly to the overlooking by Antiochus of an essential difference of spirit between the two schools. Plato is speculative, Zeno positive; Plato plays with a dozen theories, Zeno consistently adheres to one. Plato ranks the mind high, Zeno the will; Plato bases his system on the general concept, Zeno on the individual person or object. It would seem that no contrast could be more complete. Nor does Zeno’s theory agree with that of Epicurus. Both indeed are positive teachers, and hold that the senses are messengers of truth. But here Epicurus stops, whilst Zeno goes on. We have to understand rightly the functions and limitations of the senses, or we shall quickly glide into error; we have also to learn that the senses are but servants, and that the mind rules them as a monarch by divine right, coordinating the messages[153] they bring, shaping them according to its own creative capacity, even adding to them from the material it has derived from its source. The Stoic theory is in fact a bold survey of the results of the reflection of the human mind upon its own operations; it has, as we might expect, many gaps, a good deal of overlapping description, and some inconsistencies. To sceptical objections it is of course unable to give answers which are logically satisfactory; but its general position proved acceptable to men who sought in philosophy a guide to practical life.

Questions of temperament.

170. In the approximation between Stoicism and the Academy which characterizes the first century B.C., the Stoic logic obtained in the end the upper hand; and the logic of the so-called ‘old Academy’ founded by Antiochus is in all essentials that of the Stoics. Nevertheless the objections urged against it by Cicero represent not only his reason but also his sentiments. The positive system appears at its best in the education of children; and even at the present day the theory of knowledge which is tacitly adopted in schools is substantially that of the Stoics. It leads to careful observation, earnest inquiry, and resolute choice; and thus lays the foundation of solidity of character. But it must be admitted that it also works in the direction of a certain roughness and harshness of disposition. Not only is the Stoically-minded man lacking in sympathy for beliefs different from his own, which he is bound to regard as both foolish and wicked; but he is also blind to that whole side of the universe which cannot be reduced to syllogistic shape. Thus we may account for the indifference or hostility with which most Stoics regarded both literature and art[148]. The Academic, on the other hand, even if he lacked moral firmness and saw too clearly both sides of every question, was saved by his critical powers from extreme[154] assertions and harsh personal judgments, and had a delicate appreciation of the finer shadings of life. Thus behind the formal differences of the two schools there lies a difference of character. We have long since learnt that the fundamental questions between the two schools are incapable of solution by the human mind, and we can therefore appreciate the one without condemning the other. In practical life each theory has its appropriate sphere; but the Romans were hardly in the wrong when in matters of doubt they leaned towards the Stoic side.


[1] ‘[veteres illi Platonis auditores] totam philosophiam tres in partes diviserunt; quam partitionem a Zenone esse retentam videmus’ Cic. Fin. iv 2, 4.

[2] Sext. math. vii 16 (Arnim ii 38).

[3] οἱ Στωϊκοὶ ἄντικρυς μέρος αὐτὴν ἀπεφαίνοντο Philopon. ad Anal. pr. f. 4a; Stein, Psychologie ii 93. See also Arnim ii 49 and 49a.

[4] Epict. Disc. i 17, 6.

[5] Diog. L. vii 40.

[6] ἀρέσκει οὖν [τοῖς Κυνικοῖς] τὸν λογικὸν τόπον περιαιρεῖν ... καὶ τὴν ἀρετὴν διδακτὴν εἶναι Diog. L. vi 103 and 105.

[7] τίς οὖν ὕλη τοῦ φιλοσόφου; μὴ τρίβων; οὔ, ἀλλὰ ὁ λόγος· τί τέλος; μή τι φορεῖν τρίβωνα; οὔ, ἀλλὰ τὸ ὀρθὸν ἔχειν τὸν λόγον Epict. Disc. iv 8, 12.

[8] ‘Stoici ... cum vehementer amaverint artem disputandi’ Aug. Civ. De. viii 7.

[9] Zeller, Stoics etc., p. 66.

[10] See below, §§ 164, 165.

[11] ‘hi, qui negant quicquam posse comprehendi ... totam vitam evertunt funditus’ Cic. Ac. ii 10, 31.

[12] See above, § 93.

[13] Epict. Disc. ii 11, 13.

[14] ‘Stoici deum visum vocantes, quod optimum putabant’ Chalc. in Tim. 266 (Arnim ii 863).

[15] Cic. Ac. ii 7, 19.

[16] Arnim ii 458.

[17] ‘mens enim ipsa, quae sensuum fons est atque etiam ipsa sensus est, naturalem vim habet, quam intendit ad ea, quibus movetur’ Cic. Ac. ii 10, 30. On the other hand the Epicureans treat the senses as bodily, and sensation as automatic.

[18] αἴσθησις δὲ λέγεται κατὰ τοὺς Στωϊκοὺς τό τε ἀφ’ ἡγεμονικοῦ πνεῦμα ἐπὶ τὰς αἰσθήσεις διῆκον, καὶ ἡ δι’ αὐτῶν κατάληψις ... καὶ ἡ ἐνέργεια δὲ αἴσθησις καλεῖται Diog. L. vii 52.

[19] Cleanthes called it ‘imprint’ (τύπωσις); Chrysippus, lest the word imprint should be interpreted too mechanically, called it ‘alteration’ (ἀλλοίωσις) Sext. math. vii 227, 372 (Arnim ii 56); ‘visum objectum imprimet illud quidem et quasi signabit in animo suam speciem’ Cic. de Fato 19, 43.

[20] Sext. math. vii 424 (Arnim ii 68); ‘ita est maxima in sensibus veritas, si et sani sunt ac valentes, et omnia removentur quae obstant et impediunt’ Cic. Ac. ii 7, 19.

[21] ‘idem fit in vocibus, in odore, in sapore, ut nemo sit nostrum qui in sensibus sui cuiusque generis iudicium requirat acrius’ ib.

[22] οἱ Στωϊκοὶ τὰς μὲν αἰσθήσεις ἀληθεῖς Aët. plac. iv 9, 4; ‘[sensuum] clara iudicia et certa sunt’ Cic. Ac. ii 7, 19.

[23] ‘sequuntur ea, quae non sensibus ipsis percipi dicuntur, sed quodam modo sensibus, ut haec: “illud est album, hoc dulce, canorum illud, hoc bene olens, hoc asperum.” animo iam haec tenemus comprehensa, non sensibus’ ib. 7, 21.

[24] οἱ Στωϊκοὶ τὰς μὲν αἰσθήσεις ἀληθεῖς, τῶν δὲ φαντασιῶν τὰς μὲν ἀληθεῖς, τὰς δὲ ψευδεῖς Aët. plac. iv 9, 4 (Arnim ii 78); ‘Zeno nonnulla visa esse falsa, non omnia [dixit]’ Cic. N. D. i 25, 70.

[25] φαντασία μὲν οὖν ἐστι πάθος ἐν τῇ ψυχῇ γιγνόμενον, ἐνδεικνύμενον ἐν αὑτῷ καὶ τὸ πεποιηκός· ... καθάπερ γὰρ τὸ φῶς αὑτὸ δείκνυσι καὶ τὰ ἄλλα τὰ ἐν αὐτῷ περιεχόμενα, καὶ ἡ φαντασία δείκνυσιν ἑαυτὴν καὶ τὸ πεποιηκὸς αὐτήν Aët. plac. iv 12, 1 (Arnim ii 54). The object which causes the φαντασία is technically called the φανταστόν, but also ὑπάρχον Sext. math. vii 426.

[26] διάκενος ἑλκυσμὸς Aëtius plac. iv 12, 4.

[27] ib. 12, 5.

[28] φάντασμα μὲν γάρ ἐστι δόκησις διανοίας, οἵα γίνεται κατὰ τοὺς ὕπνους Diog. L. vii 50.

[29] ‘visis [Zeno] non omnibus adiungebat fidem, sed iis solum quae propriam quandam haberent declarationem earum rerum quae viderentur’ Cic. Ac. i 11, 41; cf. § 105.

[30] On this point the controversy between Arcesilaus and Zeno hinged; see above, § 84.

[31] ‘necesse est animum perspicuis cedere’ Cic. Ac. ii 12, 38.

[32] ‘perspicuitas illa, quam diximus, satis magnam habet vim ut ipsa per sese ea quae sint nobis, ita ut sunt, indicet’ ib. 14, 45.

[33] ‘adsensio nostra erit in potestate’ Cic. Fat. 19, 43; ‘adsensio non [potest] fieri nisi commota viso; tamen id visum proximam causam [habet], non principalem’ ib. 18, 42; ‘[Zeno] adsensionem adiungit animorum, quam esse vult in nobis positam et voluntariam’ Cic. Ac. i 11, 40.

[34] διττὰς γὰρ εἶναι δόξας, τὴν μὲν ἀκαταλήπτῳ συγκατάθεσον, τὴν δὲ ὑπόληψιν ἀσθενῆ Stob. ii 7, 11 m (Pearson, Z. fr. 15): cf. Plut. Sto. rep. 47, 10.

[35] ‘opinationem autem volunt esse imbecillam adsensionem’ Cic. Tusc. disp. iv 7, 15; ‘opinio quae [est] imbecilla et cum falso incognitoque communis’ Cic. Ac. i 11, 41; so Sext. math. vii 151 (Arnim ii 90).

[36] Epict. Disc. i 21, 2.

[37] ib. i 18, 1; Sext. math. vii 416.

[38] ἔστι δὲ αἴσθησις ἀντίληψις τῶν αἰσθητῶν Nem. nat. hom. vii p. 175 M (Stein, Psych. ii 135).

[39] Cicero’s point of view appears to be that the mind-picture grasps the object: ‘[visum] cum acceptum iam et adprobatum esset, [Zeno] comprehensionem appellabat, similem eis rebus quae manu prehenderentur’ Cic. Ac. i 11, 41. See further Stein, Psych. ii 174, and R. D. Hicks, Stoic and Epicurean, p. 71.

[40] This view is expressed by Posidonius, who bases it on Plato’s Timaeus: ὡς τὸ μὲν φῶς ὑπὸ τῆς φωτοειδοῦς ὄψεως καταλαμβάνεται, ἡ δὲ φωνὴ ὑπὸ τῆς ἀεροειδοῦς ἀκοῆς, οὕτως ἡ τῶν ὅλων φύσις ὑπὸ συγγενοῦς ὀφείλει καταλαμβάνεσθαι τοῦ λόγου Sext. Emp. math. vii 93. See also below, § 266.

[41] ‘comprehensio facta sensibus et vera esse [Zenoni] et fidelis videbatur; non quod omnia, quae essent in re, comprehenderet, sed quia nihil quod cadere in eam posset relinqueret’ Cic. Ac. i 11, 42.

[42] Diog. L. vii 51; ‘quam multa vident pictores in umbris et in eminentia, quae nos non videmus!’ Cic. Ac. ii 7, 20.

[43] μνήμη θησαυρισμὸς οὖσα φαντασιῶν Sext. math. vii 373 (Arnim i 64); ‘[mens] alia visa sic arripit, ut his statim utatur; alia quasi recondit, e quibus memoria oritur’ Cic. Ac. ii 10, 30.

[44] ‘quicquid frequens cogitatio exercet et renovat, memoriae nunquam subducitur; quae nihil perdit, nisi ad quod non saepe respexit’ Sen. Ben. iii 2, 3.

[45] So substantially Chrysippus argued. See Sext. math. vii 231.

[46] ὅταν δὲ ὁμοειδεῖς πολλαὶ μνῆμαι γένωνται, τότε φαμὲν ἔχειν ἐμπειρίαν Aët. plac. iv 11, 2.

[47] Diog. L. vii 52.

[48] The details of this list are variously given: e.g. ‘cum rerum notiones in animo fiant, si aut usu aliquid cognitum sit, aut coniunctione, aut similitudine, aut collatione rationis’ Cic. Fin. iii 10, 33.

[49] Diog. L. vii 52.

[50] ‘homo autem, quod rationis est particeps, per quam consequentia cernit, causas rerum videt, earumque progressus et quasi antecessiones non ignorat, similitudines comparat, et rebus praesentibus adiungit atque adnectit futuras; facile totius vitae cursum videt’ Cic. Off. i 4, 11.

[51] So Zeller, Stoics etc., p. 79.

[52] ὅταν γεννηθῇ ὁ ἄνθρωπος, ἔχει τὸ ἡγεμονικὸν μέρος τῆς ψυχῆς ὥσπερ χάρτην· εἰς τοῦτο μίαν ἑκάστην τῶν ἐννοιῶν ἐναπογράφεται Aët. plac. iv 11, 1. The metaphor of the tabula rasa can be traced back to Plato and Aristotle, but in this application was first used by Cleanthes. Locke presumably borrowed it from the Stoics. It must not be thought that this metaphor implies passivity on the part of the soul; as the Stoics use it, the soul is from the beginning actively cooperating in obtaining impressions. See Stein, Psych. ii pp. 112 sqq., note 230.

[53] τῶν δὲ φαντασιῶν ... οὐκ αἰσθητικαὶ αἱ διὰ τῆς διανοίας, καθάπερ αἱ ἐπὶ τῶν ἀσωμάτων Diog. L. vii 51.

[54] οἱ ἀπὸ Ζήνωνος Στωϊκοὶ ἐννοήματα ἡμέτερα τὰς ἰδέας ἔφασαν Aët. plac. i 10, 5 (Arnim i 65); cf. Diog. L. vii 61.

[55] πᾶσα γὰρ νόησις ἀπὸ αἰσθήσεως γίνεται ἢ οὐ χωρὶς αἰσθήσεως, καὶ ἢ ἀπὸ περιπτώσεως ἢ οὐκ ἄνευ περιπτώσεως Sext. math. viii 56 (Arnim ii 88); cf. Diog. L. vii 52 and 53.

[56] ‘cetera autem similitudinibus [mens] constituit’ Cic. Ac. ii 10, 30.

[57] Cic. N. D. i 17, 44.

[58] ἔστι δ’ ἡ πρόληψις ἔννοια φυσικὴ τῶν καθόλου Diog. L. vii 54; ‘notionem appello quam Graeci tum ἔννοιαν tum πρόληψιν; ea est insita et praecepta cuiusque formae cognitio, enodationis indigens’ Cic. Top. 7, 31; ‘nobis notitiae rerum imprimuntur, sine quibus nec intellegi quicquam nec quaeri disputarive potest’ Ac. ii 7, 21. See also Aët. plac. iv 11, 3. If the concept can only be reached by special training, it must not be called πρόληψις.

[59] ‘There are certain things which men who are not altogether perverted see by the common notions which all possess. Such a constitution of the mind is named common sense (κοινὸς νοῦς)’ Epict. Disc. iii 6, 8. See also below, § 158.

[60] ‘We need discipline, in order to learn how to adapt the preconception of what is reasonable or unreasonable to the several things conformably with nature’ Epict. Disc. i 2, 6.

[61] See Cic. Top. above, note 58.

[62] Diog. L. x 33.

[63] ‘cetera autem similitudinibus [mens] constituit; ex quibus efficiuntur notitiae rerum, quas Graeci tum ἐννοίας tum προλήψεις vocant’ Cic. Ac. ii 10, 30. As to the possibility of distinguishing the two terms see Prof. Reid’s note.

[64] See notes to the next section.

[65] ‘rerum plurimarum obscuras necessarias intelligentias enudavit [qu. incohavit?], quasi fundamenta quaedam scientiae’ Cic. Leg. i 9, 26; ‘quae in animis imprimuntur, de quibus ante dixi, incohatae intelligentiae, similiter in omnibus imprimuntur’ ib. i 10, 30; ‘As to good and evil, beautiful and ugly ... and what we ought to do and what we ought not to do, who ever came into the world without having an innate idea of them?’ Epict. Disc. ii 11, 3.

[66] ὁ δὲ λόγος ... ἐκ τῶν προλήψεων συμπληροῦσθαι λέγεται κατὰ τὴν πρώτην ἑβδομάδα Aët. plac. iv 11, 4; περὶ δὲ τὴν δευτέραν ἑβδομάδα ἔννοια γίνεται καλοῦ τε καὶ κακοῦ ib. v 23, 1.

[67] ἡ δὲ κατάληψις γίνεται ... λόγῳ τῶν δι’ ἀποδείξεως συναγομένων, ὥσπερ τὸ θεοὺς εἶναι καὶ προνοεῖν τούτους Diog. L. vii 52; ‘collatione rationis boni notio facta est; cum enim ab iis rebus, quae sunt secundum naturam, ascendit animus collatione rationis, tum ad notionem boni pervenit’ Cic. Fin. iii 10, 33; ‘nobis videtur observatio collegisse et rerum saepe factarum inter se collatio: per analogian nostri intellectum et honestum et bonum iudicant. noveramus corporis sanitatem; ex hac cogitavimus esse aliquam et animi. noveramus corporis vires; ex his collegimus esse et animi robur’ Sen. Ep. 120, 4; ‘de bonis ac malis sensus non iudicat; quid utile sit, quid inutile, ignorat. non potest ferre sententiam, nisi in rem praesentem perductus est; ratio ergo arbitra est bonorum ac malorum’ ib. 66, 35.

[68] φυσικῶς δὲ νοεῖται δίκαιόν τι καὶ ἀγαθόν Diog. L. vii 53.

[69] For the classification as a sensation see above, § 146.

[70] οἱ Στωϊκοὶ τήνδε (sc. Aristotelis) τὴν κοινὴν αἴσθησιν ‘ἐντὸς ἁφὴν’ προσαγορεύουσι, καθ’ ἣν καὶ ἡμῶν αὐτῶν ἀντιλαμβανόμεθα Aët. plac. iv 8, 7; ‘quid de tactu, et eo quidem quem philosophi interiorem vocant aut doloris aut voluptatis?’ Cic. Ac. ii 7, 20. This feeling, if mistaken for the perception of an external object, is an ‘empty twitching’: φαντασία τῶν ἐν ἡμῖν παθῶν· ὃ δὴ κυριώτερον διάκενος ἑλκυσμὸς παρ’ αὐτοῖς καλεῖται Sext. math. vii 241 (Arnim ii 64). See further Hicks, Stoic and Epicurean, p. 110.

[71] ‘visa quaedam mitti a deo, velut ea quae in somnis videantur, quaeque oraculis auspiciis extis declarentur’ Cic. Ac. ii 15, 47.

[72] Arnim ii 93 and 95; ‘ars vero quae potest esse nisi quae non ex una aut duabus, sed ex multis animi perceptionibus constat?’ Cic. Ac. ii 7, 22; ‘ex quibus [perceptis] collatis inter se et comparatis artes quoque efficimus, partim ad usum vitae, partim ad oblectationem necessariis’ N. D. ii 59, 148.

[73] Arnim ii 95.

[74] πρόληψις προλήψει οὐ μάχεται Epict. Disc. i 22, 1.

[75] εἶναι δὲ τὴν ἐπιστήμην κατάληψιν ἀσφαλῆ καὶ ἀμετάπτωτον ὑπὸ λόγου· ἑτέραν δὲ ἐπιστήμην σύστημα ἐξ ἐπιστημῶν τοιούτων Stob. ii 7, 5 l (see also Wachsmuth’s crit. note).

[76] ‘scientiam ... quam nos non comprehensionem modo rerum, sed eam stabilem quoque atque immutabilem esse censemus’ Cic. Ac. ii 8, 23; ‘quod erat sensu comprehensum ... si ita erat comprehensum ut convelli ratione non posset, scientiam [Zeno] nominabat’ ib. i 11, 41; ‘quamcunque vero sententiam probaverit [sapiens], eam sic animo comprensam habebit, ut ea quae sensibus’ ib. ii 37, 119.

[77] See above, § 77.

[78] Plut. comm. not. 47, 4.

[79] Sext. math. vii 151 (Arnim ii 90); ‘scientiam, cuius compotem nisi sapientem esse neminem’ Cic. Ac. ii 47, 145.

[80] Diog. L. vii 54, as in note 84 below.

[81] See especially Pearson, Zeno fr. 11; and above, § 84.

[82] ‘omnium deinde inanium visorum una depulsio est, sive illa cogitatione informantur, ... sive in quiete, sive per vinum, sive per insaniam. nam ab omnibus eiusmodi visis perspicuitatem, quam mordicus tenere debemus, abesse dicemus.... itaque, simul ut experrecti sumus [ex somno], visa illa contemnimus neque ita habemus, ut ea quae in foro gessimus’ Cic. Ac. ii 17, 51.

[83] ‘[ab Academia disputatum est], non inesse [in sensibus] propriam, quae nusquam alibi esset, veri et certi notam’ ib. ii 32, 103; ‘dicunt [Academici] hoc se unum tollere, ut quicquam possit ita videri, ut non eodem modo falsum etiam possit videri’ ib. 11, 33.

[84] κριτήριον δὲ τῆς ἀληθείας φασὶ τὴν καταληπτικὴν φαντασίαν, τουτέστι τὴν ἀπὸ ὑπάρχοντος, καθά φησι Χρύσιππος καὶ Ἀντίπατρος καὶ Ἀπολλόδωρος Diog. L. vii 54. This view is attributed to Zeno himself: ‘visum [Zeno ita definiit] ex eo, quod esset, sicut esset, impressum et signatum et effictum’ Cic. Ac. ii 24, 77.

[85] οἱ δὲ νεώτεροι προσετίθεσαν καὶ τὸ μηδὲν ἔχουσαν ἔνστημα Sext. math. vii 253.

[86] φαντασία πιθανὴ καὶ ἀπερίσπαστος καὶ περιωδευμένη Sext. math. vii 181. Such was the definition of Carneades (Schmekel, p. 344).

[87] Diog. L. vii 54 (see § 80, note 68).

[88] ‘posse eum [sapientem] falsa a veris distinguere’ Cic. Ac. ii 21, 67.

[89] Diog. L. vii 54. See on this point Hicks, Stoic and Epicurean, p. 70.

[90] ‘multum dare solemus praesumptioni omnium hominum, et apud nos veritatis argumentum est aliquid omnibus videri; tanquam deos esse inter alia hoc colligimus, quod omnibus insita de dis opinio est ... neminem invenies, qui non putet et sapientiam bonum et sapere bonum’ Sen. Ep. 117, 6.

[91] ‘opinionum commenta delet dies, naturae iudicia confirmat’ Cic. N. D. ii 2, 5.

[92] Diog. L. vii 177.

[93] οὐσίαν τἀγαθοῦ τίθενται τὴν εὐλόγιστον ἐκλογὴν τῶν κατὰ φύσιν Plut. comm. not. 27, 9.

[94] ἐκεῖνον [τὸν Ἀντίπατρον] ὑπὸ Καρνεάδου πιεζόμενον, εἰς ταύτας καταδύεσθαι τὰς εὑρεσιλογίας ib. 27, 15.

[95] ‘iudicis est semper in causis verum sequi; patroni nonnunquam verisimile, etiam si minus sit verum, defendere; quod scribere ... non auderem, nisi idem placeret gravissimo Stoicorum Panaetio’ Cic. Off. ii 14, 51.

[96] ‘visus noster solita imbecillitate deceptus’ Sen. N. Q. i 2, 3.

[97] To himself, v 33.

[98] See above, §§ 146, 147.

[99] ‘sapientem aliquando sustinere adsensionem’ Cic. Ac. ii 17, 53.

[100] Epict. Disc. i 27, 17.

[101] The distinction between ‘name’ and ‘class-name’ was due to Chrysippus: see Sandys, Classical Scholarship, i p. 144.

[102] Diog. L. vii 58.

[103] For these and further particulars see Sandys, Classical Scholarship, i ch. ix; R. Schmidt, Stoicorum Grammatica, pp. 18 sqq.

[104] ‘Crates, nobilis grammaticus, fretus Chrysippo, homine acutissimo, qui reliquit περὶ ἀνωμαλίας III libros, contra analogiam atque Aristarchum est nixus’ Varro L. L. ix 1 (Arnim ii 151).

[105] Orig. cont. Celsum i 24 (Arnim ii 146).

[106] Varr. L. L. vi 11 (Arnim ii 163).

[107] See Zeller, Stoics etc., p. 73, n. 2; Aristotle’s distinction is between τὸν ἐν τῇ ψυχῇ λόγον and τὸν ἔξω λόγον.

[108] ‘vocem Stoici corpus esse contendunt eamque esse dicunt ictum aera’ A. Gellius, N. A. v 15, 6.

[109] ‘hunc [qui primo dicitur iam fari] Chrysippus negat loqui, sed ut loqui; ... sic in corvis, cornicibus, pueris primitus incipientibus fari, verba non esse verba’ Varro L. L. vi 56 (Arnim ii 143).

[110] Diog. L. vii 63 to 78.

[111] Varro translates this by ‘proloquium’ (Gell. N. A. xvi 8, 8), Cicero provisionally by ‘pronuntiatum’ (Tusc. disp. i 7, 14).

[112] A statement or proposition is therefore a phrase ‘complete in itself’ (λεκτὸν αὐτοτελές) A. Gellius N. A. xvi 8, 4.

[113] Diog. L. vii 45.

[114] ib. 80 and 81.

[115] ‘ex iis modis conclusiones innumerabiles nascuntur’ Cic. Top. 14, 57.

[116] § 83.

[117] ἔλυε δὲ [Ζήνων] σοφίσματα, καὶ τὴν διαλεκτικήν, ὡς τοῦτο ποιεῖν δυναμένην, ἐκέλευε παραλαμβάνειν τοὺς μαθητάς Plut. Sto. rep. 8, 2.

[118] ‘inventus, Chrysippe, tui finitor acervi’ Pers. Sat. vi 80.

[119] ‘placet enim Chrysippo, cum gradatim interrogetur, tria pauca sint anne multa, aliquanto prius quam ad multa perveniat, quiescere’ Cic. Ac. ii 29, 93. Cf. Sext. math. vii 416.

[120] ‘si te mentiri dicis idque verum dicis, mentiris an verum dicis?’ Cic. Ac. ii 29, 95.

[121] Epict. Disc. ii 17, 34.

[122] ‘mus syllaba est. mus autem caseum rodit: syllaba ergo caseum rodit ... o pueriles ineptias!’ Sen. Ep. 48, 6 and 7; ‘quod non perdidisti, habes; cornua autem non perdidisti; cornua ergo habes’ ib. 49, 8.

[123] Epict. Disc. ii 19, 1 sqq.

[124] See below, §§ 220, 221.

[125] Diog. L. vii 60.

[126] ‘omnis oratio aut continua est aut inter respondentem et interrogantem discissa; hanc διαλεκτικήν, illam ῥητορικήν placuit vocari’ Sen. Ep. 89, 17.

[127] Cic. Orator 32, 113.

[128] ‘scripsit artem rhetoricam Cleanthes. Chrysippus etiam; sed sic, ut si quis obmutescere cupierit, nihil aliud legere debeat. itaque vides quo modo loquantur; nova verba fingunt, deserunt usitata’ Cic. Fin. iv 3, 7.

[129] Diog. L. vii 59.

[130] ‘uni M. Porcio me dedicavi atque despondi atque delegavi’ Front. et Aur. Ep. ii 13.

[131] οἱ Στωϊκοὶ δὲ τὸ εὖ λέγειν ἔλεγον τὸ ἀληθῆ λέγειν Anon. ad Herm. Rhet. Gr. vii 8. Hence speech was a virtue; ‘[Stoicis] hanc habeo gratiam, quod soli ex omnibus eloquentiam virtutem ac sapientiam esse dixerunt’ Cic. de Or. iii 18, 65.

[132] ‘fuerunt et clari quidam auctores, quibus solum videretur oratoris officium docere; namque et effectus duplici ratione excludendos putabant, primum quia vitium esset omnis animi perturbatio, deinde quia iudicem a veritate pelli misericordia gratia similibusque non oporteret, et voluptatem audientium petere ... vix etiam viro dignum arbitrabantur’ Quint. Inst. or. v Prooem.

[133] Diog. L. vii 42.

[134] ‘orationis genus habent [Stoici] fortasse subtile et certe acutum; sed, ut in oratore, exile, inusitatum, abhorrens ab auribus vulgi, obscurum, inane, ieiunum, attamen eiusmodi quo uti ad vulgus nullo modo possit’ Cic. de Or. iii 18, 66.

[135] ‘dicebat modesta Diogenes et sobria’ A. Gellius, N. A. vi 14, 10.

[136] See below, chap. xvi.

[137] See Smiley, Latinitas and Ἑλληνισμός.

[138] ‘Philosophers utter words which are contrary to common opinion, as Cleanthes also said, but not words contrary to reason’ Epict. Disc. iv 1, 173; ‘where is the wonder if in philosophy many things which are true appear paradoxical to the inexperienced?’ ib. i 25, 33.

[139] ‘ista παράδοξα quae appellant, maxime videntur esse Socratica’ Cic. Parad. Prooem. 4.

[140] ‘nihil est tam incredibile, quod non dicendo fiat probabile’ Cic. Parad. Prooem. 3; ‘Stoica paradoxa, quorum nullum esse falsum nec tam mirabile quam prima facie videtur, adprobabo’ Sen. Ep. 87, 1.

[141] Zeller, Stoics etc., pp. 354-370.

[142] A. Gellius, N. A. xvi 8, 16 and 17.

[143] ‘quaedam exercendi tantum ingenii causa quaeruntur, et semper extra vitam iacent’ Sen. Ben. vi 1, 1.

[144] ‘multum illis temporis verborum cavillatio eripuit et captiosae disputationes, quae acumen inritum exercent’ Ep. 45, 5.

[145] ‘We terminate in this, in learning what is said, and in being able to expound it to another, in resolving a syllogism, and in handling the hypothetical syllogism’ Epict. Disc. iv 4, 14.

[146] ‘Thanks [to the gods] too that, in spite of my ardour for philosophy, I did not fall into the hands of any sophist, or sit poring over essays or syllogisms, or become engrossed in scientific speculation’ M. Aurelius To himself i 17.

[147] ‘verum esse arbitror, ut Antiocho nostro familiari placebat, correctionem veteris Academiae potius quam aliquam novam disciplinam putandam [Stoicorum rationem]’ Cic. Ac. i 12, 43.

[148] ‘tunc intellegere nobis licebit, quam contemnenda miremur, simillimi pueris, quibus omne ludicrum in pretio est. quid ergo inter nos et illos interest, ut Ariston ait, nisi quod nos circa tabulas et statuas insanimus, carius inepti? illos reperti in litore calculi leves delectant, nos ingentium maculae columnarum’ Sen. Ep. 115, 8. This tone is clearly derived from Cynism, as the reference to Aristo indicates. A modern Cynic is still more sweeping in his condemnation: ‘all the nastiness and stupidity which you call science and art’ (Count Leo Tolstoy in the Westminster Gazette, Sept. 3, 1910).




171. Under the general heading of Physics the ancients included a number of subjects which in modern times form independent branches of philosophy. Cleanthes subdivided the subject into Physics proper and Theology[1]. Here it will be convenient to make a larger number of subdivisions, so as to treat separately of (i) the Foundations of Physics, generally called (after Aristotle’s treatise) ‘Metaphysics’; (ii) Physics proper, that is, the account of the Universe and its history; (iii) the final problems involved in the history of the Universe, such as its government by Divine Providence, the Existence of Evil, Free-will, and Chance; (iv) the problems of Religion, such as the existence of gods, their number, character, and claims on mankind; and (v) the nature of Man, including the modern subjects of Psychology and Physiology, and to some extent of Anthropology also, treated by the Stoics as a Kingdom governed by the Soul. According to Stoic principles these subjects cannot be separated one from the other, or from the other parts of philosophy; and therefore in treating each one we shall, as before, assume a general knowledge of all the others. The Stoics laid great stress upon the study of Physics, as the only sound basis for a scientific rule of human conduct; and some of them (beginning with Chrysippus), having especial regard to the elevated dignity of the study of Theology, were disposed to rank this branch of philosophy as the highest and last of its three principal divisions[2]. We shall however, in accordance with a view more generally held, reserve the last place for Ethics[3].


Fundamental Conceptions.

172. To the earlier Greek philosophers, as we have already seen, it appeared that a single bold intuition was enough, or almost enough, to discover a sufficient foundation upon which to construct a reasoned account of all things. Thus the Ionic philosophers took up as such a foundation one or more of the elements of air, fire, and water. But as soon as these three, together with earth, were recognized as ‘elements’ existing side by side, it became necessary to dig deeper, so as to secure a foundation for these as well. Thus Democritus resolved all four into ‘atoms’ and ‘void’; his theory was taken over by Epicurus, and remains to this day not only the most popular solution of the problem, but also that which (till quite recently) was tacitly assumed as the basis of all scientific investigation. Anaxagoras, working on different lines, began his account of the universe with ‘mind’ on the one hand and a primal conglomerate ‘matter’ on the other; a doctrine evidently based upon the popular dualism of soul and body, and still the basis of all transcendental philosophy and established religious conceptions. This Aristotle varied by assuming rather an ‘active’ and a ‘passive’ principle, force which works and matter upon which it works. Besides these conceptions many others need to be considered, which if not absolutely fundamental, are nevertheless matters of discussion in all philosophical schools, as those of motion, space, time, soul, body, God, the universe, cause, effect, will and necessity. In this way the original inquiry into the foundation of the universe developes into a general study of fundamental conceptions; and it is at this stage that it is taken over and dealt with by Stoicism, which adds to the list certain conceptions on which it lays a special stress and to which it gives a characteristic colour; such are those of ‘body,’ ‘spirit,’ and ‘tone.’

The Stoic monism.

173. The fact that the Stoics use from time to time the language of other schools or of popular speculation does not necessarily imply that this language is an adequate statement of their doctrine; and we frequently[4] find that the discussion of particular problems seems to be[157] based on dualisms, though these are in the end subordinated to monistic statements. Thus in logic we have already noticed the sharp contrast between the perceiving mind and the external object of perception (αἰσθητόν, ὑπάρχον); nevertheless mind and object are ultimately declared to be akin[5]. So in particular the popular dualism of ‘soul’ and ‘body’ is often accepted by the Stoics, and yet as steadily superseded by the paradox that ‘soul is body.’ The reason given for this is that ‘body is that which acts and is acted upon[6]’; and this statement in the end overrides the Aristotelian distinction of force and matter, active principle and passive principle. ‘Body,’ as conceived by the Stoics, is the one ultimate element, the foundation and beginning of the universe; it contains within itself the capacity of action, and nothing but ‘body’ has this capacity. Body, and nothing but body, exists in the true sense; that certain other things have a quasi-existence (as we shall see later in this chapter) is an embarrassment which only brings into clearer relief this distinctive feature of the system. The Stoic ‘body,’ though it is also called ‘matter’ (ὕλη, materia), must not be confused with the ‘matter’ of modern philosophy, which has derived from Aristotle the implication of passivity[7]; much more closely it corresponds with the ‘stuff’ by which modern monistic philosophers denote the substratum of mind and body alike. To call the Stoics ‘materialists’ will generally prove misleading; it is the Epicurean system, to which the Stoics were sharply opposed, which (as we have seen)[8] corresponds to modern materialism.

The nature of ‘body.’

174. The conception of ‘body’ therefore replaces in the Stoic system the various elements which the Ionic philosophers assumed as the basis of the universe, and combines both parts of such dualistic elements as were assumed by Democritus, Anaxagoras and Aristotle. Since it is the foundation of all things it must be capable of taking very various shapes. In logic we have met with it under the name[158] of the ‘substratum’ (τὸ ὑπάρχον, id quod est)[9], but it none the less includes the ‘subject’ or feeling and reasoning mind. In the universe as a whole it is ‘essence’ (οὐσία, essentia); in its parts it is ‘matter’ (ὕλη, silva)[10]; but it also appears, possessed of intelligence, as the deity[11], and again is identified with ‘breath’ or ‘spirit[12],’ and through this with the human soul[13]. Even in ethics it has its place; for all causes are bodily, and not least ‘the good’ and the respective virtues, all of which are bodies, for they act upon body[14]; similarly the emotions such as anger and melancholy, are of the nature of body[15].

Motion, space and time.

175. The Stoic ‘body’ in all its transformations is active and alert. It contains in itself the principle or power of movement; for though we observe that one body is set in motion by another, yet this could not be the case unless in the beginning there had been a body which had movement of itself[16]. As to the nature of the primal movement, the Stoics agree with Anaximenes that it may be described as alternate rarefaction and condensation. Rarefaction is a wave or ‘spirit’ spreading from the centre to the extremities; condensation is a contrary movement from the extremities to the centre[17]. The extension of body is ‘space,’ which therefore does[159] not exist of itself, but only as a function of body[18]. Where there is no body (and body is limited), there is no space, but only the ‘boundless void’ beyond the universe[19]; of this we cannot say that it ‘exists’; rather it ‘not exists.’ Time also does not exist of itself, but only in the movement of body[20]. Neither space nor time existed before the universe, but have been all along bound up with it[21].

Body comprises life and thought.

176. In almost every particular we find a sharp contrast between the Stoic conception of ‘body’ and the Epicurean ‘atom.’ The atom is extremely small and entirely unchangeable; ‘body’ is immensely large and in a high degree plastic. Atoms alternate with void; but ‘body’ spreads continuously throughout the entire universe; it can never be torn apart or show a gap[22]. Atoms move downwards in parallel straight lines; ‘body’ moves from the centre to the circumference, and thence returns to the centre. Two atoms can never occupy the same space; but ‘body’ everywhere moves through body, penetrating it and combining with it throughout its whole extent[23]. The atom is a convenient hypothesis within the range of modern physical and chemical science; the conception of ‘body’ gains force as we enter the region of biology. For life also is a movement which proceeds from a warm centre (and warmth is body rarefied), and extends towards a circumference[160] which is in comparison gross and cold[24]. Going further, we find that ‘body’ and its functions are so interpreted as to provide a key to the activities of the human reason and will.

Tone or tension.

177. To the central conception of body are attached in the Stoic system various supplementary conceptions, which serve to bring into clearer view its nature and powers. Of these the most characteristic is that of ‘tone’ or ‘strain’ (τόνος, intentio). This term appears originally to have expressed muscular activity[25], and was next used by the Cynics to denote that active condition of the soul which is the true end of life; ‘no labour,’ said Diogenes, ‘is noble, unless its end is tone of soul[26].’ Although we cannot trace the term ‘tone’ directly to Zeno, we find that he explains sleep as a relaxation of the soul, substantially agreeing with later writers who call it a ‘relaxation of the sensory tone around the soul[27].’ With Cleanthes the word becomes fairly common, first in the ethical application, in which ‘tone’ is ‘a shock of fire, which if it be strong enough to stir the soul to fulfil its duties is called strength and force[28],’ and then in physics to explain the unceasing activity of the universe[29], personified by Hercules in Stoic allegorical theology[30]. In later writers tone becomes constantly associated with the ‘spirit’ or ‘thrill’ which explains both the unity and the movement of all things[31], so that ‘tone of spirit’ or ‘thrill-tone’[161] (πνευματικὸς τόνος, intentio spiritus) explains to us the operations of body and mind alike[32].

The seed power.

178. Body however is not only active but creative; there is inherent in it a power, which is that of the ‘seed’ (σπέρμα, semen), and which is most conspicuously illustrated in the seed of animals and plants. It is the characteristic of seed that from a small beginning it developes a great plan, and that this plan never changes[33]. This plan or purpose is named by the Stoics its ‘reason’ or ‘word’ (λόγος), and at this point Stoicism incorporates the doctrine of the ‘Word’ or universal reason with which it became acquainted through Heraclitus. The ‘Word’ or ‘seed-power’ (λόγος σπερματικός) of the universe is one; it is the primal fire in its work of creation; it is Zeus the Creator who moulds gross matter into the things that are to be[34]; it is wisdom which plies matter as it will[35]. But there are also in individual objects, animate and inanimate, indestructible seed-powers, countless in number, displayed alike in growth, procreation, and purpose[36]; these seed-powers are, as it were, spirits or deities, spread throughout the universe, everywhere shaping, peopling, designing, multiplying; they are activities of fiery spirit working through tension[37] in its highest development. But the seed-power of the universe comprehends in itself all the individual seed-powers; they are begotten of it,[162] and shall in the end return to it. Thus in the whole work of creation and re-absorption[38] we see the work of one Zeus, one divine Word, one all-pervading spirit[39].


179. Closely akin to the theory of ‘seed-powers’ and the Word is that of ‘cause’ (αἰτία, causa). Aristotle had already explained this term in connexion with cosmogony, laying down that, in order that a universe may come into being, three ‘causes’ are required; matter, without which nothing can be made; a workman, to make things; and the form or shape, which is imposed on every work as on a statue. To these may be added a fourth cause, the purpose of the work. Thus to produce a statue we need the bronze, the artist, the design, and the fee. Grammatically these causes may be expressed by the help of prepositions, as the ex quo, a quo, in quo and propter quod[40]. To this theory of multiple causes the Stoics oppose the doctrine of a single ‘first cause,’ the maker of the universe. This first cause can be none other than the primal creative fire in a new aspect; equally it is the creative Word.

It seems well to translate here in full the argument of Seneca on this point, for it stands almost alone as an example of his powers in continuous exposition:

The Stoic dogma is that there is one cause only, the maker. Aristotle holds that cause is threefold. ‘The first cause,’ he says, ‘is the material itself, for without it nothing can be made. The second cause is the maker. The third is the design, which is impressed on every single work as on a statue;’ this Aristotle calls the εἶδος. I will now explain what he means.

The bronze is the first cause of a statue; for it could never have been made, had there not been stuff to be cast or wrought into shape. The second cause is the sculptor; for the bronze could never have been brought into the shape of a statue without the artist’s touch. The third cause is the[163] design; for the statue would not be called the ‘javelin-man’ or the ‘crowned king’ had not such a design been impressed upon it.

There is besides a fourth cause, the purpose. What is purpose? It is that which induced the sculptor to undertake the work, the aim that he had in view. It may have been money, if he intended to sell it; or glory, if he wished to make himself a name; or religious feeling, if he proposed to present it to a temple. That for the sake of which a thing is done is therefore also a cause; for you cannot think it right in making up a list of causes to omit something, apart from which the thing would never have been made.

Thus Aristotle postulates a multiplicity of causes; but we maintain that the list is either too long or too short.

If we hold that everything, apart from which the thing would never have been made, is a cause of its making, then the list is too short. We ought to reckon time as a cause, for nothing can be made without time. We ought to reckon space as a cause; for if there is no room for a thing to be made, it will certainly not be made. Movement too should be placed in the list; for without movement nothing can be produced or destroyed; without movement there can be neither art nor change.

We Stoics look for a first and general cause. Such a cause must be single, for the stuff of the universe is single. We ask what that cause is, and reply that it is the creative reason, the deity. The various causes in the list that has been made are not a series of independent causes, but are all variations of a single cause, namely ‘the maker[41].’

Causation and free-will.

180. Although the ‘first cause’ and the ‘Word’ are thus formally identified, their associations in connexion with cosmogony are very different. For whereas the ‘Word’ suggests reason and purpose, and leads up to the dogma that the universe is governed by divine providence, the term ‘cause’ suggests the linking of cause and effect by an unending chain, the inevitable sequence of events which leaves no room for effort or hope. These terms therefore point to the supreme problems of Fate and divine Purpose, Determinism and Free-will, and as such will be discussed in a later chapter[42]. Here it is sufficient to note that the Stoics not only accept, but insist upon the use of terms suggesting both points of view, and look therefore beyond their immediate opposition to an ultimate reconciliation; and that the importance attached to the doctrine of a ‘single and general cause’ by no means excludes a multiplicity of individual causes depending upon[164] it, and capable of classification according to their relative importance[43].

The categories.

181. Thus the conception of ‘body,’ so simple to the plain man, becomes to the philosopher manifold and intricate. Its interpretation is to some extent brought into harmony with common speech through the doctrine of the ‘categories’ based upon Aristotle’s teaching[44]. But whereas Aristotle endeavoured in his categories to classify the various but independent classes of existences, the Stoics considered the different aspects in which the one primary body might be studied. The first two categories, those of ‘substance’ (ὑποκείμενον) and of ‘quality’ (ποιόν), agree with those of Aristotle[45], and clearly correspond to the grammatical categories of noun and adjective. The third category is that of ‘disposition’ (πὼς ἔχον), as ‘lying down’ or ‘standing[46].’ The fourth is that of ‘relative position’ (πρός τί πως ἔχον), as ‘right’ and ‘left,’ ‘son’ and ‘father[47].’ Some of the categories are further subdivided[48]; but enough is here stated to shew the object of the analysis, which in practice may have been useful in securing some completeness in the discussion of particular conceptions. Of ‘substances’ the Stoics, like others, say that they ‘exist,’ and are ‘bodies’; of qualities they boldly say the same[49]. But they do not consistently apply the same terms to disposition and relative position; in this direction they are at last led, like other philosophers, to speak of things which ‘do not exist.’ They could not take the modern view that all such discussions are verbal entanglements, of which no solution is possible, because they believed that there was a natural harmony between words and things. We on the other hand shall be little inclined to follow their analysis into its manifold details[50].



182. The analysis of the first two categories, those of Substance and Quality, leads us at once to the profoundest problems of Metaphysics; and even if we allow that the difficulty is primarily grammatical, and resolves itself into a discussion of the functions of Substantive and Adjective, it is none the less inextricably interwoven with all our habits of thought. It would be unreasonable to expect from the Stoics perfectly clear and consistent language on this point; they absorb into their system much from popular philosophy, and much from the teaching of Aristotle in particular. The view which is distinctively Stoic is that Substance and Quality are both body[51], but in two different aspects. The terms ‘body’ and ‘substance’ refer to the same reality, but do not describe it with the same fulness. Yet because the very word ‘substance’ (οὐσία) suggests existence, the Stoics are drawn also to speak of ‘substance without quality’ (ἄποιος οὐσία), and seem to identify it with a dead ‘matter’ (ὕλη), or ‘substratum’ (ὑποκείμενον), as though life must be introduced into it from without[52]. This is practically the view of Aristotle, embodied in the phrase ‘matter without quality is potentially body’[53]; but just so far as terms of this kind imply a dualistic explanation of the universe, they are not really reconcileable with the fundamental principles of Stoicism, and they must therefore be understood with reservations. It may often seem that the three terms ‘body,’ ‘substance,’ ‘matter,’ are practically interchangeable, but they are of different rank. For body exists eternally of itself; whereas substance and matter, except when loosely used as equivalents of body, do not exist of themselves, but substance always in association with quality[54], and matter always in association with force. Further we may distinguish between ‘substance’ in general, or ‘first matter,’ which is a[166] ‘substratum’ (ὑποκείμενον) to the universe, and the ‘matter’ of particular things[55]. The former never grows greater or less, the latter may alter in either direction[56].


183. Quality (ποιότης, τὸ ποιόν, qualitas) constitutes the second category. It is defined by the Stoics as a difference in a substance which cannot be detached from that substance, but makes it ‘such and such,’ as for instance ‘sweet,’ ‘round,’ ‘red,’ ‘hot[57].’ Qualities, say the Stoics, are bodies[58]. This paradoxical statement may be understood in two ways; first, in that qualities do not exist independently, but are aspects of ‘body’ which possesses quality; secondly, in that qualities are bodies in a secondary sense. We may consider it evidence of the second point of view that language describes the qualities by nouns, as ‘sweetness,’ ‘rotundity,’ ‘redness,’ ‘heat’; and indeed it is not so long since our own chemists described heat as a ‘substance’ under the name of ‘caloric.’ This point of view is carried to an extreme when the Stoics say ‘qualities are substances,’ thus throwing the first two categories into one[59]. Much stronger is the tendency towards Aristotle’s views, so that as substance becomes identified with dead matter, quality is explained as the movement, tension, or current which endows it with life. Hence the Stoics say ‘the movement of rarefaction is the cause of quality[60]’; ‘matter is a dull substratum, qualities are spirits and air-like tensions[61]’; ‘quality is a spirit in a certain disposition[62]’; ‘the air-current which keeps each thing together is the cause of its[167] quality[63].’ All these expressions must however be interpreted in the light of the Stoic theory as a whole. Finally we notice that, corresponding to the two kinds of substance, general and particular, there are two kinds of quality, as shewn in the ‘generically qualified’ (κοινῶς ποιόν) and the ‘individually qualified’ (ἰδίως ποιόν); for instance, heat in the universe and heat in particular objects[64].


184. The third category is that of ‘disposition’ (πὼς ἔχοντα, res quodammodo se habens). It differs from quality in its variableness; for a brave man is always brave, and fire is always hot; but a man is sometimes standing, sometimes lying; fire is sometimes lambent, sometimes still. Qualities therefore appear to correspond generally to the συμβεβηκότα (coniuncta) of Epicurus, in that they can never be separated from a body[65]; and dispositions rather with the συμπτώματα (eventa), which come and go[66]. The third category appears to be used by the Stoics in a very wide sense, and to correspond to several of the categories of Aristotle[67]. Disposition is attached to quality as quality is attached to substance[68]; and though dispositions are not expressly termed bodies, yet we must consider them to be, as the terms in the Greek and Latin sufficiently indicate, bodies in particular aspects.

In the further applications of Stoic theory disposition as defined above appears to be replaced in Greek by the term ἕξις. But this term is used in two different senses. In the first place it is the movement of rarefaction and condensation, by which a spirit or thrill passes from the centre of an object to the extremities, and returns from the extremities to the[168] centre[69]; in this sense it is translated in Latin by unitas, and takes bodily form as an air-current[70]. This force, when it requires a further motive power in the direction of development, becomes the principle of growth (φύσις, natura), and is displayed not only in the vegetable world, but also in animals, as in particular in the hair and nails[71]. Growth when it takes to itself the further powers of sensation and impulse becomes soul (ψυχή, anima), and is the distinctive mark of the animal world[72].

In a rather different sense ἕξις or temporary condition is contrasted with διάθεσις or ‘permanent disposition.’ In this sense the virtues are permanent dispositions of the soul, because virtue is unchanging; the arts are temporary conditions. The virtues belong to the wise man only, the arts to the ordinary man. This distinction however does not hold its ground in the Roman period, the word habitus (representing ἕξις), our ‘habit,’ being used in both senses[73]. The virtues are bodies, being dispositions of the soul which is bodily[74].

Relative position.

185. The fourth category, that of ‘relative position’ (πρός τί πως ἔχον) appears to be of less importance than the others[75]. Its characteristic is that it may disappear without altering that to which it belongs. Thus that which is on the right hand may cease to be so by the disappearance of that which was on its left; a father may cease to be such on the death of his son[76]. It seems difficult to describe[169] the fourth category as one consisting of ‘body,’ but at least it is a function of body. Also it does not appear that ‘relative position’ can be predicated of the universe as a whole; it is peculiar to individual objects, but works towards their combination in a larger whole. The fourth category has an important application in practical ethics in the doctrine of daily duties, for these are largely determined by the relative positions (σχέσεις) of the parties concerned: such are the duties of a king to his people, a father to his son, a slave to his master[77].


186. Having fully considered bodies and their relationships, we proceed to consider their combination. In ordinary experience we meet with three kinds of combination; juxtaposition (παράθεσις), as in a mixture of various kinds of grain; mixture (μῖξις), when solid bodies are interfused, as fire and heat, or fusion (κρᾶσις), when fluids are interfused, as wine poured into the sea; chemical mixture (σύγχυσις), when each of the two bodies fused disappears[78]. Of these the second in its most completed form (κρᾶσις δι’ ὅλων, universa fusio) is of high importance. For in this way we find that soul is fused with body[79], quality with substance[80], light with air[81], God with the universe[82]. Aristotle admits that there is this mixture between substance and qualities; but as both of these are to the Stoics bodies, and so too are the members of the other pairs quoted, the Stoic doctrine must be summed up in the paradox ‘body moves through body[83].’ This also follows from the Stoic doctrine that there is no void in the universe. Correspondingly the sum total of body in its various aspects and[170] mixtures completes the whole (ὅλον), which is identical with the ‘world-order’ or ‘universe’ (κόσμος)[84]. It seems likely that this important conception had been reached in very early times by the Chaldaean astronomers; it was definitely propounded by Pythagoras[85], had been taken up by Socrates[86] and the Sophists[87], and was in Stoic times generally accepted both in popular philosophy and in scientific investigation.


187. Up to this point the Stoic system has been guided by a determined monism. Body is; that which is not body is not. Yet in the end the Stoics feel compelled to speak of certain things which are not body (ἀσώματα, incorporalia). In the first instance there is the void beyond the universe[88]. It is possible to dispute as to whether void may more correctly be said to exist or not to exist; but at least it is a part of nature[89], and we need some term like ‘the all’ (τὸ πᾶν) to include both the universe and the void beyond[90]. Next we have to deal with statements (λεκτά), and mental conceptions of every kind, which stand as a class in contrast with the real objects to which they may or may not respectively correspond[91]. Lastly, the Stoics included space and time, which they had previously explained as functions of body, in the list of things not bodily[92]. Having thus reached the two main classes of ‘bodies,’ and ‘things not bodily,’ the monistic principle can only be saved by creating a supreme class to include both. Let this then be called the existent (τὸ ὄν, quod est)[93], or, if it be objected that things incorporeal[171] do not exist[94], we may use the name ‘quiddities’ (τινά, quid)[95]. In this way the monistic theory, though a little damaged in vitality, is again set on its feet so far as the ingenious use of words can help.


188. The language of the Stoics with regard to the phenomena of speech and thought is not always easy to follow, and perhaps not altogether consistent. On the one hand, attaching high importance to the reasoning power, they desire to include its operations in that which is real and bodily. Thus the ‘mind-pictures’ and indeed all mental conceptions are bodily and even ‘animal,’ in the sense that they are operations of body[96]; and truthfulness, ignorance, science and art are all bodies in the sense that they are dispositions of the soul, which is bodily[97]. But ‘phrases’ (λεκτά) are definitely incorporeal, and with them appear to be ranked all mental conceptions and general ideas; about these there is a question, not merely whether they exist or not, but whether they may even be classed in the most general class of all as ‘quiddities[98].’ Nor can we call general conceptions true or false[99]; though of some of them, as of Centaurs, giants, and the like, we may say that they are formed by false mental processes[100]. Finally statements are either true or false, but are not to be called existent. The whole discussion[172] therefore ends with the broad distinction between the object, which may be real or ‘existent,’ and the predication which may be ‘true’; and the attempt to unite these two conceptions is not persisted in[101].

Force and matter.

189. Although the Stoics aim consistently at the monistic standard, they make frequent use of dualistic statements, some of which we have already noticed. The Latin writers often contrast soul and body from the standpoint of ethics[102]; and we meet in all the Stoic writers, and often in unguarded language, the favourite Aristotelian dualism of force and matter, or (what comes to the same thing) the active and passive principles. ‘Zeno’ (we are told) ‘laid down that there are two principles in the universe, the active and the passive. The passive is matter, or essence without quality; the active is the Logos or deity within it[103].’ So also Cleanthes and Chrysippus taught[104]; and in the Roman period Seneca regarded this as a well-understood dogma of the whole school[105]. But even if direct evidence were lacking, the whole bearing of the philosophy would shew that this dualism is also surmounted by an ultimate monism. God and matter are alike body; they cannot exist the one apart from the other[106]. Of this Cicero, speaking for the Stoics, gives a proof; matter could never have held together, without some[173] force to bind it; nor force without matter[107]. We must not therefore be led by the term ‘principles’ (ἀρχαί, principia) to think of force and matter in any other way than as two aspects of primary body, separable as mental conceptions, inseparable as physical realities. The interpretation is essentially the same, whether the Stoics speak of God and the universe, matter and cause, body and tension, or substance and quality, and has been already discussed with some fulness under these separate headings.

The elements.

190. The position of the four ‘elements’ (στοιχεῖα, elementa) is similar; these are in the Stoic philosophy subdivisions of the two principles just discussed. For fire and air are of the nature of cause and movement; water and earth of receptivity and passivity[108]. Body is therefore made up of the four elements mixed[109], or perhaps rather of the elementary qualities of heat and cold, dry and wet, which they represent[110]. The doctrine of primary or elemental qualities had been taught before, first by Anaximenes, then by Hippocrates the physician, and by Aristotle[111]; the list of the four elements is traced back to Empedocles. For Aristotle’s ‘fifth element’ Zeno found no use[112].


191. Such are the fundamental conceptions or postulates with which the Stoics approach the problems of physics. It is not necessary for our purpose to compare their merit with those of Aristotle, or to set a value on the debt that Zeno and his successors owed to the founder of the Peripatetic school. Still less do we suggest that the[174] Stoics have perfectly analyzed the contents of the universe, or have even produced an orderly and rounded scheme. But at least it seems clear that their work shews intellectual power, and that speculation is not necessarily less profound because it is pursued with a practical aim[113]. The founders of the Stoic philosophy had a wide reach; they took all knowledge to be their province; and they worked persistently towards the harmonization of all its parts.


[1] Diog. L. vii 41.

[2] Arnim ii 42 and 44.

[3] Diog. L. vii 40.

[4] Perhaps necessarily: on the definition of monism, see above, § 35, note 22.

[5] See above, §§ 149, 153.

[6] ‘[Zeno] nullo modo arbitrabatur quicquam effici posse ab ea [natura], quae expers esset corporis ... nec vero aut quod efficeret aliquid aut quod efficeretur, posse esse non corpus’ Cic. Ac. i 11, 39; ‘cui tanta vis est, ut inpellat et cogat et retineat et iubeat, corpus est’ Sen. Ep. 106, 9.

[7] See above, § 67.

[8] § 43.

[9] See above, § 157, note 84.

[10] ταὐτὸν σῶμα καὶ οὐσίαν ὁριζόμενοι Clem. Alex. Strom. ii p. 436 (Arnim ii 359); διδόασι δὲ καὶ σῶμα αὐτῇ [τῇ ὕλῃ] Plot. Enn. ii 4, 1 (Arnim ii 320). οὐσία in this sense is also called πρώτη ὕλη, see § 182, note 52.

[11] τὸν θεὸν ... σῶμα νοερὸν ... ποιοῦντες Plut. comm. not. 48, 2.

[12] ‘vides autem tanto spiritum esse faciliorem omni alia materia, quanto tenuior est’ Sen. Ep. 50, 6.

[13] ‘et hoc [animus] corpus est’ ib. 106, 4.

[14] οἱ Στωϊκοὶ πάντα τὰ αἴτια σωματικά· πνεύματα γάρ Aët. plac. i 11, 5; ‘placet nostris quod bonum est, corpus esse’ Sen. Ep. 117, 2; ‘quaeris, bonum an corpus sit. bonum facit, prodest enim. quod facit, corpus est’ ib. 106, 4.

[15] ‘non puto te dubitaturum, an adfectus corpora sint, tanquam ira, amor, tristitia. si dubitas, vide an voltum nobis mutent, an frontem adstringant, an faciem diffundant, an ruborem evocent, an fugent sanguinem. quid ergo? tam manifestas notas corpori credis imprimi nisi a corpore?’ ib. 106, 5.

[16] ‘dicimus non posse quicquam ab alio moveri, nisi aliquid fuerit mobile ex semet’ Sen. N. Q. ii 8; ‘is ardor, qui est mundi, non agitatus ab alio, neque externo pulsu, sed per se ipse ac sua sponte [movetur]’ Cic. N. D. ii 11, 31.

[17] οἱ δὲ Στωϊκοὶ ... κίνησιν τὴν μανωτικὴν καὶ πυκνωτικὴν τίθενται, τὴν μὲν (sc. πυκνωτικὴν) ἐπὶ τὰ ἔσω, τὴν δὲ ἐπὶ τὰ ἔξω Simpl. Arist. cat. p. 74; ‘tenorem, qui rarescente materia a medio tendat ad summum, eadem concrescente rursus a summo referatur ad medium’ Censorinus de die nat. p. 75 (Zeller, p. 128).

[18] τόπον δ’ εἶναι ὁ Χρύσιππος ἀπεφαίνετο τὸ κατεχόμενον δι’ ὅλου ὑπὸ ὄντος Ar. Did. fr. 25 Diels (Arnim ii 503).

[19] κενὸν μὲν εἶναί φασι τὸ οἷόν τε ὑπὸ ὄντος κατέχεσθαι, μὴ κατεχόμενον δὲ Sext. math. x. 3 (Arnim ii 505); τὸ μὲν οὖν κενὸν ἄπειρον εἶναι λέγεσθαι· τὸ γὰρ ἐκτὸς τοῦ κόσμου τοιοῦτ’ εἶναι, τὸν δὲ τόπον πεπερασμένον διὰ τὸ μηδὲν σῶμα ἄπειρον εἶναι Ar. Did. (as note 18).

[20] Χρύσιππος διάστημα [τὸν χρόνον εἶπε] τῆς τοῦ κόσμου κινήσεως Simpl. Arist. cat. p. 88 l (Arnim ii 510); οἱ πλείους τῶν Στωϊκῶν [χρόνου οὐσίαν] αὐτὴν τὴν κίνησιν Aët. plac. i 22, 7.

[21] χρόνος γὰρ οὐκ ἦν πρὸ κόσμου ἀλλ’ ἢ σὺν αὐτῷ γέγονεν ἢ μετ’ αὐτόν Philo de mundi op. § 26 (Arnim ii 511).

[22] The question is thus stated by Seneca: ‘[quaeramus] continua sit omnis et plena materia ... an diducta, et solidis inane permixtum sit’ Sen. Dial. viii 4, 2; and answered as follows ‘nihil usquam inane est’ N. Q. iii 16, 5. Cf. Arnim i 95 and ii 425.

[23] σώματα δὲ πάντα ὑπέθεντο καὶ σῶμα διὰ σώματος χωρεῖν Hipp. Phil. 21 (Arnim ii 469).

[24] ‘animus ex inflammata anima constat, ut potissimum videri video Panaetio’ Cic. Tusc. disp. i 18, 42. The principle is however not carried out in the Stoic universe, in which the heat resides in the periphery, and the central earth is cold.

[25] νέων τι δρᾶν μὲν εὐτονώτεραι χέρες Eur. fr. 291 quoted by Corn. 31 (Arnim i 514); ὁμοίως ὥσπερ ἰσχὺς τοῦ σώματος τόνος ἐστὶν ἱκανὸς ἐν νευροῖς, οὕτω καὶ ἡ τῆς ψυχῆς ἰσχὺς τόνος ἐστί Stob. ii 7, 5 b 4.

[26] Epict. Fr. 57.

[27] See below, § 290.

[28] ὁ δὲ Κλεάνθης ... εἰπὼν ὅτι πληγὴ πυρὸς ὁ τόνος ἐστί, κἂν ἱκανὸς ἐν τῇ ψυχῇ γένηται πρὸς τὸ ἐπιτελεῖν τὰ ἐπιβάλλοντα ἰσχὺς καλεῖται καὶ κράτος Plut. Sto. rep. 7, 4.

[29] Κλεάνθης δὲ οὕτω πώς φησι ... τὸν ἐν τῇ τῶν ὅλων οὐσία τόνον μὴ παύεσθαι Stob. i 17, 3.

[30] Ἡρακλῆς δ’ ἐστὶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς ὅλοις τόνος, καθ’ ὃν ἡ φύσις ἰσχυρὰ καὶ κραταιά ἐστι Cornutus 31.

[31] ‘quid autem est, quod magis credatur ex se ipso habere intentionem quam spiritus?’ Sen. N. Q. ii 8.

[32] ‘quid est illi [animo] motus nisi intentio?’ ib. ii 6, 6; ‘quid cursus et motus omnis, nonne intenti spiritus operae sunt? hic facit vim nervis, velocitatem currentibus’ ib. ii 6, 4.

[33] καταβληθὲν τὸ σπέρμα ἀναπληροῖ τοὺς οἰκείους λόγους καὶ ἐπισπᾶται τὴν παρακειμένην ὕλην καὶ διαμορφοῖ Simpl. Ar. cat. Ο γ β.

[34] οὕτω καὶ τοῦτον [τὸν Δία] σπερματικὸν λόγον ὄντα τοῦ κόσμου ... εὐεργὸν αὐτῷ ποιοῦντα τὴν ὕλην πρὸς τὴν τῶν ἑξῆς γένεσιν Diog. L. vii 136; τὸ δὲ ποιοῦν τὸν ἐν αὐτῇ λόγον τὸν θεόν ib. 134.

[35] ‘ratio materiam format et quocunque vult versat’ Sen. Ep. 65, 2. Cf. Tert. Apol. 21.

[36] ἀφθάρτους [τοὺς σπερματικοὺς λόγους] ἐποίησαν, ὡς οἱ ἀπὸ τῆς Στοᾶς Proclus in Parm. iv 135. See further Stein, Psychologie der Stoa, i p. 49; Heinze, Lehre vom Logos, pp. 107-127.

[37] ‘The original impulse of providence gave the origin and first momentum to the cosmic ordering of things, by selecting certain germs of future existences, and assigning to them productive capacities of realisation, change, and phenomenal succession.’ M. Aurelius, To himself ix 1.

[38] ‘ad initia deinde rerum redit [sapientia] aeternamque rationem [sc. τὸν λόγον] toti inditam, et vim omnium seminum [sc. τῶν σπερματικῶν λόγων] singula proprie figurantem’ Sen. Ep. 90, 29. See also the interpretation of the picture of Samos, § 254, note 83.

[39] ὁ μὲν θεὸς πῦρ τεχνικὸν ὁδῷ βάδιζον ἐπὶ γενέσεις κόσμου ἐμπεριειληφὸς ἅπαντας τοὺς σπερματικοὺς λόγους, τὸ δὲ πνεῦμα αὐτοῦ διήκει δι’ ὅλου τοῦ κόσμου Athen. Supp. 6, 7 B (Pearson Z. 45).

[40] See above, § 67.

[41] Sen. Ep. 65, 4 to 6, 11 and 12.

[42] See below, ch. ix.

[43] ‘causarum enim,’ inquit [Chrysippus], ‘aliae sunt perfectae et principales, aliae adiuvantes et proximae’ Cic. de Fato 18, 41.

[44] See above, § 66.

[45] οἱ δέ γε Στωϊκοὶ ... ποιοῦνται τὴν τομὴν εἰς τέσσαρα· εἰς ὑποκείμενα καὶ ποιὰ καὶ πὼς ἔχοντα καὶ πρὸς τί πως ἔχοντα Simpl. Arist. cat. f 16 Δ (Arnim ii 369).

[46] Plotinus Ennead. vi 1, 30 (Arnim ii 400).

[47] Simpl. Arist. cat. f 42 Ε (Arnim ii 403).

[48] For a fuller statement see Zeller, pp. 97-100.

[49] See § 183.

[50] For the position of ‘things not existent’ in the Stoic system see further below, § 187.

[51] σῶμα δέ ἐστι κατ’ αὐτοὺς ἡ οὐσία Diog. L. vii 150; ἔφησε δὲ ὁ Ποσειδώνιος τὴν τῶν ὅλων οὐσίαν καὶ ὕλην ἄποιον καὶ ἄμορφον εἶναι Stob. i 11, 5 c.

[52] οὐσίαν δέ φασι τῶν ὄντων ἁπάντων τὴν πρώτην ὕλην· ὕλη δέ ἐστιν ἐξ ἧς ὁτιδηποτοῦν γίνεται Diog. L. vii 150; ὕλην, σῶμα ὥς φασιν οὖσαν Plot. Enn. ii p. 114 (Arnim ii 375).

[53] ἡ ἄποιος ὕλη, ἣν δυνάμει σῶμα Ἀριστοτέλης φησί Dexipp. Arist. cat. p. 23, 25 (Arnim ii 374).

[54] See Plutarch, comm. not. 50, 6.

[55] ἁπλῶς μὲν γὰρ ὑποκείμενον πᾶσιν ἡ πρώτη ὕλη, τισὶ δὲ ὑποκείμενον γιγνομένοις ἐπ’ αὐτοῦ καὶ κατηγορουμένοις ὁ χαλκὸς καὶ ὁ Σωκράτης Dexippus Arist. cat. p. 23, 25 (Arnim ii 374).

[56] Diog. L. vii 150.

[57] Simplic. Arist. cat. p. 57 Ε (Arnim ii 378).

[58] ὁ περὶ τῶν ποιοτήτων λόγος καὶ τῶν συμβεβηκότων ἁπάντων, ἅ φασιν εἶναι Στωϊκῶν παῖδες σώματα Galen qual. incorp. 1 xix, p. 463 K (Arnim ii 377).

[59] τὰς δὲ ποιότητας αὖ πάλιν οὐσίας καὶ σώματα ποιοῦσι Plut. comm. not. 50, 1.

[60] οἱ δὲ Στωϊκοὶ κίνησιν [τὴν μανωτικήν see above, note 17] τοῦ ποιὸν εἶναι νομίζουσιν αἰτίαν Simpl. Arist. cat. p. 68 Ε (Arnim ii 452).

[61] τὴν ὕλην ἀργὸν ἐξ ἑαυτῆς καὶ ἀκίνητον ὑποκεῖσθαι ταῖς ποιότησιν ἀποφαίνουσι, τὰς δὲ ποιότητας πνεύματα οὔσας καὶ τόνους ἀερώδεις εἰδοποιεῖν ἕκαστα Plut. Sto. rep. 43, 4.

[62] ἀναιροῖτο ἂν τὸ τὴν ποιότητα εἶναι πνεῦμά πως ἔχον Alex. Aph. Arist. Top. iv p. 181 (Arnim ii 379).

[63] τοῦ ποιὸν ἕκαστον εἶναι αἴτιος ὁ συνέχων ἀήρ ἐστι Plut. Sto. rep. 43, 2.

[64] Zeller, pp. 103-107.

[65] ‘pondus uti saxi, calor ignis, liquor aquaï, | tactus corporibus cunctis’ Lucr. R. N. i 454, 455.

[66] ‘servitium contra, paupertas, divitiaeque, | ... cetera quorum | adventu manet incolumis natura abituque, | haec soliti sumus, ut par est, eventa vocare’ ib. 456-9.

[67] εἰ δέ τις εἰς τὸ πὼς ἔχον συντάττοι τὰς πλείστας κατηγορίας, ὥσπερ οἱ Στωϊκοί Dexipp. Arist. cat. p. 34, 19 (Arnim ii 399).

[68] τὰ μὲν ποιὰ περὶ τὴν ὕλην πὼς ἔχοντα, τὰ ἰδίως δὲ πὼς ἔχοντα περὶ τὰ ποιὰ Plot. Enn. vi 1, 30 (Arnim ii 400).

[69] ἡ δὲ [ἕξις] ἐστὶ πνεῦμα ἀναστρέφον ἐφ’ ἑαυτό Philo quod deus, § 35 (Arnim ii 458).

[70] οὐδὲν ἄλλο τὰς ἕξεις πλὴν ἀέρας εἶναι [Χρύσιππός] φησιν· ὑπὸ τούτων γὰρ συνέχεται τὰ σώματα Plut. Sto. rep. 43, 2; ‘esse autem unitatem in aere vel ex hoc intellegi potest, quod corpora nostra inter se cohaerent. quid est enim aliud quod teneret illa, quam spiritus?’ Sen. N. Q. ii 6, 6.

[71] ἡ δὲ φύσις διατείνει καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ φυτά. καὶ ἐν ἡμῖν δέ ἐστιν ἐοικότα φυτοῖς, ὄνυχές τε καὶ τρίχες· ἐστὶ δὲ ἡ φύσις ἕξις ἤδη κινουμένη Philo Leg. Alleg. ii § 22 (Arnim ii 458).

[72] ψυχὴ δέ ἐστι φύσις προσειληφυῖα φαντασίαν καὶ ὁρμήν. αὔτη κοινὴ καὶ τῶν ἀλόγων ἐστίν ib.

[73] ‘voluntas non erit recta, nisi habitus animi rectus fuerit; habitus porro animi non erit in optimo, nisi totius vitae leges perceperit’ Sen. Ep. 95, 57.

[74] ‘virtus autem nihil aliud est quam animus quodam modo se habens’ ib. 113, 2.

[75] ‘Relative position’ must be distinguished from ‘correlation’ (πρός τι). Such terms as ‘sweet’ and ‘bitter,’ ‘living’ and ‘dead’ are said to be correlated. Simpl. Arist. cat. p. 42 Ε (Arnim ii 403).

[76] Simpl. as in last note.

[77] See below, § 337.

[78] So Ar. Did. fr. 28, and, more exactly, Alex. Aph. de mixt. p. 216, 14 Br. (Arnim ii 473). Another division is as follows: ‘quaedam continua esse corpora, ut hominem; quaedam esse composita, ut navem; quaedam ex distantibus, tanquam exercitus, populus, senatus’ Sen. Ep. 102, 6.

[79] οἱ δὲ ἀπὸ τῆς Στοᾶς ... διὰ παντὸς ὁρῶντες τοῦ σώματος καὶ τὴν ψυχὴν χωροῦσαν καὶ τὰς ποιότητας, ἐν ταῖς κράσεσι συνεχώρουν σῶμα διὰ σώματος χωρεῖν Simpl. Arist. phys. p. 530, 9 (Arnim ii 467).

[80] Arnim ii 411 and 467.

[81] τὸ φῶς δὲ τῷ ἀέρι ὁ Χρύσιππος κιρνᾶσθαι λέγει Alex. Aph. de mixt. p. 216, 14 (Arnim ii 473).

[82] ‘Stoici enim volunt deum sic per materiam decucurrisse, quomodo mel per favos’ Tertull. adv. Hermog. 44; and see below, § 207.

[83] Note 2 above.

[84] ὅλον μὲν γὰρ λέγουσι τὸν κόσμον Achill. Is. 5, p. 129 (Arnim ii 523).

[85] See Rendall, M. Aurelius Introd. p. xxix.

[86] ὁ τὸν ὅλον κόσμον συντάττων τε καὶ συνέχων Xen. Mem. iv 3, 13.

[87] ib. i 1, 11.

[88] See below, § 193.

[89] ‘in rerum, inquiunt, natura quaedam sunt, quaedam non sunt; et haec autem, quae non sunt, rerum natura complectitur’ Sen. Ep. 58, 15.

[90] ὅλον μὲν γὰρ λέγουσι τὸν κόσμον· πᾶν δὲ μετὰ τοῦ κενοῦ Achill. Isag. 5, p. 129 (Arnim ii 523).

[91] Sen. as above.

[92] τῶν δὲ ἀσωμάτων τέσσαρα εἴδη καταριθμοῦνται, ὡς λεκτὸν καὶ κενὸν καὶ τόπον καὶ χρόνον Sext. math. x 218 (Arnim ii 331).

[93] ‘etiam nunc est aliquid superius quam corpus. dicimus enim quaedam corporalia esse, quaedam incorporalia, quid ergo erit ex quo haec deducantur? illud, cui nomen modo parum proprium imposuimus, “quod est”’ Sen. Ep. 58, 11.

[94] οἱ Στωϊκοί, ὡς οἱ περὶ τὸν Βασιλείδην, οἷς ἔδοξε μηδὲν εἶναι ἀσώματον Sext. math. viii 258.

[95] ἐκεῖνοι [οἱ Στωϊκοὶ] νομοθετήσαντες αὑτοῖς τὸ ὂν κατὰ σωμάτων μόνων λέγεσθαι ... τὸ τὶ γενικώτερον αὐτοῦ φασιν εἶναι, κατηγορούμενον οὐ κατὰ σωμάτων μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ κατὰ ἀσωμάτων Alex. Aphr. Arist. Top. iv p. 155 (Arnim ii 329); ‘primum genus Stoicis quibusdam videtur “quid”’ Sen. Ep. 58, 15.

[96] ‘animalia sunt omnia, quae cogitamus quaeque mente complectimur; sequitur ut multa milia animalium habitent in his angustiis pectoris, et singuli multa simus animalia. non sunt, inquit, multa, quia ex uno religata sunt et partes unius ac membra sunt’ Sen. Ep. 113, 3 and 9 (Seneca himself does not agree with this way of speaking).

[97] ἡ δὲ ἀλήθεια σῶμά ἐστιν παρ’ ὅσον ἐπιστήμη πάντων ἀληθῶν ἀποφαντικὴ δοκεῖ τυγχάνειν· πᾶσα δὲ ἐπιστήμη πὼς ἔχον ἐστὶν ἡγεμονικόν ... τὸ δὲ ἡγεμονικὸν σῶμα κατὰ τούτους ὑπῆρχε Sext. math. vii 38 (Zeller, p. 129).

[98] τὰ ἐννοήματά φασι μήτε τινὰ εἶναι μήτε ποιά, ὡσανεὶ δὲ τινὰ καὶ ὡσανεὶ ποιὰ φαντάσματα ψυχῆς Ar. Did. fr. 40 (Diels).

[99] οὔτε ἀληθεῖς οὔτε ψευδεῖς εἰσιν αἱ γενικαὶ [φαντασίαι] Sext. math. vii 246.

[100] ‘haec ... quae animo succurrunt, tanquam Centauri, gigantes, et quicquid aliud falsa cogitatione formatum habere aliquam imaginem coepit, quamvis non habeat substantiam’ Sen. Ep. 58, 15.

[101] οὐδὲν οὖν ἔτι δεῖ λέγειν τὸν χρόνον, τὸ κατηγόρημα, τὸ ἀξίωμα, τὸ συνημμένον, τὸ συμπεπλεγμένον· οἷς χρῶνται μὲν μάλιστα τῶν φιλοσόφων, ὄντα δὲ οὐ λέγουσιν εἶναι Plut. comm. not. 30, 12.

[102] See below, § 287.

[103] δοκεῖ δὲ αὐτοῖς ἀρχὰς εἶναι τῶν ὅλων δύο, τὸ ποιοῦν καὶ τὸ πάσχον, κ.τ.λ. Diog. L. vii 134.

[104] ib.; οἱ ἀπὸ τῆς Στοᾶς δύο λέγοντες ἀρχάς, θεὸν καὶ ἄποιον ὕλην Sext. math. ix 11 (Arnim ii 301).

[105] ‘dicunt, ut scis, Stoici nostri, duo esse in rerum natura, ex quibus omnia fiant, causam et materiam. materia iacet iners, res ad omnia parata, cessatura si nemo moveat; causa autem, id est ratio, materiam format et quocunque vult versat’ Sen. Ep. 65, 2; ‘universa ex materia et ex deo constant. deus ista temperat, quae circumfusa rectorem sequuntur. potentius autem est ac pretiosius quod facit, quod est deus, quam materia patiens dei’ ib. 23.

[106] ἄλλων δὲ καὶ ποιητικὴν μὲν αἰτίαν ἀπολειπόντων, ἀχώριστον δὲ ταύτην τῆς ὕλης, καθάπερ οἱ Στωϊκοί Syrianus Arist. met. (Arnim ii 308). ‘Stoici naturam in duas partes dividunt, unam quae efficiat, alteram quae se ad faciendum tractabilem praebeat. in illa prima esse vim sentiendi, in hac materiam; nec alterum sine altero [esse] posse’ Lact. Div. inst. vii 3.

[107] ‘neque enim materiam ipsam cohaerere potuisse, si nulla vi contineretur, neque vim sine ulla materia’ Cic. Ac. i 6, 24.

[108] Arnim ii 418; ‘e quibus [elementis] aer et ignis movendi vim habent et efficiendi; reliquae partes accipiendi et quasi patiendi, aquam dico et terram’ Cic. Ac. i 7, 26.

[109] κατὰ τοὺς Στωϊκούς, ἐκ τῆς τῶν τεσσάρων στοιχείων κράσεως γινομένου τοῦ σώματος Justin de res. 6 (Arnim ii 414).

[110] ὅσα τοίνυν σώματα πρῶτον τὰς τοιαύτας ἔχει ποιότητας, ἐκεῖνα στοιχεῖα τῶν ἄλλων ἁπάντων ἐστὶ καὶ τῆς σαρκός· ἔστι δὲ ταῦτα γῆ καὶ ὕδωρ καὶ ἀὴρ καὶ πῦρ Galen const. art. med. i p. 251 K (Arnim ii 405).

[111] Galen meth. med. i 2, X p. 15 K (Arnim ii 411).

[112] See below, § 196.

[113] Cf. Mahaffy’s Greek Life and Thought; ‘it is quite wrong to suppose that these thinkers [Zeno and Epicurus], busy as they were with practical life, despised or avoided speculation. Their philosophical theories demand hard reading and hard thinking’ p. 137.



Study of the heavens.

192. In including in their system the study of the physical universe the Stoics broke daringly with Socrates and his faithful followers the Cynics. These had joined with the ignorant and the prejudiced[1] in ridiculing those whose eyes were always turned up towards the sky, whilst they saw nothing of things that were nearer at hand and concerned them more closely. But it was not for nothing that the most highly civilised nations of antiquity, Egyptians, Chaldaeans, and Babylonians, had studied the starry heavens, mapped out the constellations, measured the paths of the wandering stars, predicted eclipses, reckoned with the tides, the seasons, and the winds; with the result that their successors defied the common opinion by declaring the earth to be a sphere, and to hold inhabitants whom they called Antipodes, because they walk with their feet turned up towards ours[2]. All this body of knowledge, called generically the knowledge of the sky (though it included the whole physical geography of the earth), had impressed and fascinated the Eastern world. It seemed that as the eyes were raised to the sky, so the mind of man was elevated and made ampler and nobler[3], leaving behind it the petty contentions and rivalries of common life; and further that true knowledge had surely been reached, when the positions of the heavenly bodies and the eclipses of sun and moon[176] could be predicted so long before with unfailing accuracy. These feelings are now commonplaces of literature, and were fully shared by the Stoics. ‘Is not the sun,’ says Seneca, ‘worthy of our gaze, the moon of our regard? When the sky displays its fires at night, and countless stars flash forth, who is not absorbed in contemplation of them? They glide past in their company, concealing swift motion under the outward appearance of immobility. We comprehend the movements of a few of them, but the greater number are beyond our ken. Their dignity fills all our thoughts[4].’ In the golden age which preceded our iron civilisation ‘men lay at nights in the open fields, and watched the glorious spectacle of the heavens. It was their delight to note the stars that sank in one quarter and rose in another. The universe swept round them, performing its magnificent task in silence[5].’ ‘Their order never changes, spring and autumn, winter and summer succeed according to fixed laws[6].’ And in the same tone writes the Stoic poet: ‘unshaken the lights of heaven ever move onwards in their proper orbit[7].’ The emotion roused in the Stoic by the contemplation of the sky was thus identical with that expressed in Judaic poetry by the ‘Song of the Three Holy Children[8],’ and in more modern times by Addison’s famous hymn[9].

The world-order.

193. The phenomena of earth and heaven combined, in the general opinion of intelligent men, to show the existence of a ‘world-order’ or ‘universe[10].’ The Stoics accepted this conception in their physics from[177] Heraclitus, who had declared that ‘neither god nor man created this world-order,’ as in their ethics from Diogenes, the ‘citizen of the universe[11].’ They therefore needed only to adjust an established notion to their own physical postulates. We observe at once that the very conception of an ordered whole differentiates that whole from the absolute totality of all things. The universe is indeed on the one hand identified with the substance of all things (οὐσία τῶν ὅλων), but only as a thing made individual by the possession of quality (ἰδίως ποιόν)[12], and necessarily one[13]. It is self-created; and it may therefore be identified with its creator, the deity[14]; it also includes all that is bodily[15]; but outside there remains the boundless void[16]. It is therefore defined by Chrysippus as ‘the combination of heaven and earth and all natures that are in them,’ or alternatively as ‘the combination of gods and men and all that is created for their sake[17].’

Its position.

194. The Stoic conception of the universe is therefore that of a continuous body, having a definite outline, and stationed in the boundless void. That the universe has shape the Stoics deduce from its having ‘nature’ (φύσις), that is, the principle of growth, displayed in the symmetry of its parts[18]; and its shape is the perfect shape of a sphere[19]. Within this sphere all things tend towards the middle[20]; and we use the terms ‘down’ meaning ‘towards the middle,’ and ‘up’ meaning[178] thereby from the middle[21]. The Peripatetics are therefore needlessly alarmed, when they tell us that our universe will fall down, if it stands in the void; for, first, there is no ‘up’ or ‘down’ outside the universe; and, secondly, the universe possesses ‘unity’ (ἕξις)[22] which keeps it together[23]. And here we see the folly of Epicurus, who says that the atoms move downwards from eternity in the boundless void; for there is no such thing as ‘downwards’ in that which is unlimited[24]. Further, the universe is divided into two parts, the earth (with the water and the air surrounding it) which is stable in the middle, and the sky or aether which revolves around it[25].

The heliocentric theory.

195. Thus early in their theory the Stoics were led to make two assertions on questions of scientific fact, in which they opposed the best scientific opinion of their own time. For many authorities held that the earth revolved on its axis, and that the revolution of the sky was only apparent. Such were Hicetas of Syracuse[26], a Pythagorean philosopher, whose views were quoted with approval by Theophrastus, and later Ecphantus the Pythagorean, and Heraclides of Pontus[27]. From the point of view of astronomical science this view seemed well worthy of consideration, as Seneca in particular emphasizes[28]. Other astronomers had gone[179] further, declaring that the sun lay in the centre, and that the earth and other planets revolved round it. Theophrastus stated that Plato himself in his old age had felt regret that he had wrongly placed the earth in the centre of the universe; and the heliocentric view was put forward tentatively by Aristarchus of Samos, and positively by the astronomer Seleucus, in connexion with the theory of the earth’s rotation[29]. For this Cleanthes had said that the Greeks should have put Aristarchus on trial for impiety, as one who proposed to disturb ‘the hearth of the universe[30].’ This outburst of persecuting zeal, anticipating so remarkably the persecution of Galileo, was effective in preventing the spread of the novel doctrine. Posidonius was a great astronomer, and recognised the heliocentric doctrine as theoretically possible[31]; indeed, as one who had himself constructed an orrery, shewing the motion of all the planets[32], he must have been aware of its superior simplicity. Nevertheless he opposed it vigorously on theological grounds, and perhaps more than any other man was responsible for its being pushed aside for some 1500 years[33]. The precise ground of the objection is not made very clear to us, and probably it was instinctive rather than reasoned. It could hardly be deemed impious to place the sun, whom the Stoics acknowledged as a deity, in the centre of the universe; but that the earth should be reckoned merely as one of his attendant planets was humiliating to human self-esteem, and jeopardised the doctrine of Providence, in accordance with which the universe was created for the happiness of gods and men only.

The elements.

196. Having determined that the earth is the centre of the universe, and the sun above it, the way is clear to incorporate in the system the doctrine of the four elements (στοιχεῖα, naturae)[34], which probably had its origin in[180] a cruder form of physical speculation than the doctrine of the heavenly bodies. As we have seen above[35], the elements are not first principles of the Stoic physics, but hold an intermediate position between the two principles of the active and the passive on the one hand, and the organic and inorganic world on the other. Earth is the lowest of the elements, and also the grossest; above it is placed water, then air, then fire; and these are in constant interchange, earth turning to water, this into air, and this into aether, and so again in return. By this interchange the unity of the universe is maintained[36]. The transition from one element to the next is not abrupt, but gradual; the lowest part of the aether is akin to air[37]; it is therefore of no great importance whether we speak with Heraclitus of three elements, or with Empedocles of four. The two grosser elements, earth and water, tend by nature downwards and are passive; air and fire tend upwards and are active[38]. Zeno did not think it necessary to postulate a fifth element as the substance of soul, for he held that fire was its substance[39].

Fire and breath.

197. Fire, heat, and motion are ultimately identical, and are the source of all life[40]. Thus the elemental and primary fire stands in contrast with the fire of domestic use; the one creates and nourishes, the other destroys[41].[181] It follows that fire, though it is one of the four elements, has from its divine nature a primacy amongst the elements[42], which corresponds to its lofty position in the universe[43]; and the other elements in turn all contain some proportion of fire. Thus although air has cold and darkness as primary and essential qualities[44], nevertheless it cannot exist without some share of warmth[45]. Hence air also may be associated with life, and it is possible to retain the popular term ‘spirit’ (πνεῦμα, spiritus) for the principle of life. In the development of the Stoic philosophy we seldom hear again of air in connexion with coldness; and between the ‘warm breath’ (anima inflammata) and the primary fire there is hardly a distinction; we may even say that ‘spirit’ has the highest possible tension[46].

God in the stone.

198. Air on its downward path changes to water. This change is described as due to loss of heat[47], and yet water too has some heat and vitality[48]. Even earth, the lowest and grossest of the elements, contains a share of the divine heat; otherwise it could not feed living plants and animals, much less send up exhalations with which to feed the sun and stars[49]. Thus we may say even of a stone that it has a part of the divinity in it[50]. Here then we see the reverse side of the so-called Stoic materialism. If it is true that God is body,[182] and that the soul is body, it is equally true that even water, the damp and cold element, and earth, the dry and cold element, are both penetrated by the divinity, by the creative fire without the operation of which both would fall in an instant into nothingness[51].

The heavenly bodies.

199. We return to the consideration of the heavenly bodies. These are set in spheres of various diameter, all alike revolving around the earth. The succession we find described in Plato’s Timaeus[52]; the moon is nearest to the earth, then comes the sun, then in order Venus, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. This theory was taken up by Aristotle and after him by Eudoxus, from whom it passed to Aratus and Chrysippus[53]. A tradition derived from Chaldaean sources gave a different order, setting Venus and Mercury nearer to the earth than the sun; and this order was accepted by the middle Stoics, that is to say by Panaetius and Posidonius, the latter placing Venus nearer to the earth, and therefore further from the sun, than Mercury[54]. The moon, like the earth, obtains her light from the sun, being crescent-shaped when nearest to him, full-orbed when furthest away. Her distance from the earth is two million stadia (250,000 miles); when she lies between the earth and the sun she eclipses his light, but when she is on the side of the earth directly away from the sun she is herself eclipsed[55]. Her phases are explained by her position relative to the sun[56]. The sun is 60 millions of miles from the earth[57]; his diameter is 37½ times as large as that of the earth[58]; he appears larger when on the horizon because his rays are refracted through the thick atmosphere[59]. The[183] planets, whether they revolve round the earth or the sun, are falsely called ‘wandering stars,’ since their orbits have been fixed from all eternity[60]. The fixed stars revolve round the earth at such a distance that the earth, when compared with it, is merely the central point[61]. All the heavenly bodies are, like the earth, of spherical form[62]. Finally Seneca, in advance of the school, declared the comets to be a regular part of the celestial world[62a].

Cruder theories.

200. Whilst the Stoics generally were in sympathy with the best astronomical teaching of their time, they combined with it many views based on much cruder forms of observation. Even Seneca thinks it bold to suggest that the sun is not a little larger than the whole earth[63]; and it is commonly held that not only the sun and moon, but also the heavenly bodies generally, feed upon moist exhalations from the Ocean[64]. Cleanthes in particular seems to have viewed the astronomers with suspicion. He alone regarded the moon not as a sphere, but as a hemisphere with the flat side turned towards us[65]; the stars he considered to be conical[66]. These views, very probably derived from Heraclitus, seem to point to the conception of the sky or aether as a single fixed fiery sphere, in which the heavenly bodies only differ from the surrounding element by containing more closely packed masses of fiery matter[67]; a conception which harmonizes far more closely with the Stoic theory of the elements than the doctrines which[184] are astronomically more correct. Cleanthes also explained that the sun could not venture to travel beyond his solstitial positions, lest he should be out of reach of his terrestrial food[68]. And Cleanthes and Posidonius agree that the sun keeps within the ‘torrid zone’ of the sky, because beneath it flows the Ocean, from which the sun sucks up his nutriment[69].

Deity of the stars.

201. From the relation of the heavenly bodies to the element of fire the Stoics draw the conclusion that they are animated, reasoning, self-determined, and divine; in short, that they are gods[70]. This godhead pertains particularly to the sun[71]. Of this doctrine Cleanthes is especially the upholder[72], deeming that the sun is the ruling power in the universe, as reason in man[73]. It is not clear whether the Stoics derived their theory of the divinity of the heavenly bodies from logical deduction, or whether they were here incorporating some Eastern worship. In favour of the latter point of view is the consideration that at this time the association of Mithra with the sun was probably making some progress in the Persian religion, and that the popular names of the seven days of the week, following the names of the sun, moon, and five planets, must have been already current.

Deity of the universe.

202. But in the Stoic system this doctrine is overshadowed by the paradox that the universe itself is a rational animal, possessed of free-will and divine. This is the teaching of all the masters of the school, beginning with Zeno himself. It appeared to him to follow logically from two principles, the first that the universe possesses a unity, the second that the whole is greater than its parts. ‘There cannot[185] be a sentient part of a non-sentient whole. But the parts of the universe are sentient; therefore the universe is sentient[74].’ ‘The rational is better than the non-rational. But nothing is better than the universe; therefore the universe is rational[75].’ ‘The universe is one[76]’; we must not therefore think of it as of an army or a family, which comes into a kind of existence merely through the juxtaposition of its members. By the same reasoning the universe possesses divinity[77]. Upon this favourite Stoic text is based the frequent assertion of modern commentators that the philosophy is pantheistic[78]; but the more central position of Stoicism is that the deity bears the same relation to the universe as a man’s soul to his body[79], and the universe is therefore no more all divine than a man is all soul. This view is expressed with great clearness by Varro, who says: ‘As a man is called wise, being wise in mind, though he consists of mind and body; so the world is called God from its soul, though it consists of soul and body[80].’ The Stoics are however in strong conflict with the Epicureans and all philosophers who hold that the world is fundamentally all matter, and that soul and mind are developments from matter. ‘Nothing that is without mind can generate that which possesses mind,’ says Cicero’s Stoic[81],[186] in full opposition to modern popular theories of evolution. Further, just as it may be questioned in the case of man whether the soul is situated in the head or in the heart, so in the case of the universe we may doubt whether its soul, or rather its ‘principate,’ is in the sun, as Cleanthes held[82], or in the sky generally, as Chrysippus and Posidonius maintain[83], or in the aether, as Antipater of Tyre taught[84].

The earth’s inhabitants.

203. In the study of the universe we are not called upon merely to consider the earth as a member of the celestial company; we have to contemplate it as the home of beings of various ranks, which also display to us the principle of orderly arrangement. Preëminent amongst the inhabitants of the earth stands man, who is distinguished by being the sole possessor of the faculty of reason, and in addition owns all those capacities which are shewn in beings of lower rank. The nature of man constitutes so large a part of philosophy that we must reserve its full consideration for a special chapter[85]; and must restrict ourselves here to treating of lower beings, which fall into the three orders of animals, plants, and inanimate beings. But since each of the higher orders possesses all the properties of every order that stands lower, the study of the orders inferior to man is also the study of a large part of human nature. The number and classification of these orders are not to be treated mechanically. From one point of view gods and men form one class, the rational, as opposed to every kind of non-rational being. On the other hand, from the standpoint with which we are rather concerned at this moment, gods, men, and animals are subdivisions of the order of animate beings, below which stand the plants, and lower still things without life. Animals, as the name indicates, possess life or soul; the two lower orders possess something corresponding to soul, but lower in degree. The general term which includes soul in the animal and that which corresponds to it in the plants and in lifeless bodies is ‘spirit’ (πνεῦμα); soul therefore is the highest type of ‘spirit.’


The animals have not reason

204. To the dumb animals the Stoics consistently deny the faculty of reason; and this position must have seemed to them self-evident, since the same word Logos expresses in the Greek both reason and speech. In the Latin the point was no longer so clear; still the words ‘ratio’ and ‘oratio,’ if not identical, appeared to be connected by a natural association. Since the animals then are necessarily unreasoning, those acts of animals which appear to show reason must be explained in some other way. A dog pursues a wild animal by its scent; it must therefore be admitted that in a way the dog recognises that ‘this scent is the sign of the wild animal[86]’; still he is incapable of expressing this belief in the form of a correct syllogism. The industry of the ant is disposed of in a more summary way; this animal shows a ‘restless helplessness,’ climbing up and down straws in meaningless industry; many men however are no wiser[87]. For their young the animals have a certain feeling, yet their grief at losing them is comparatively short-lived[88]. In spite, however, of these limitations the animal world is one part of the wonders of nature, and is deserving of our admiration; all animals have strong affection for their young so long as these need their protection[89], and the dog deserves special recognition both for his keen intelligence and for his loyalty towards his master[90].

but a sort of reason.

205. To define more accurately the nature of animals we must to some extent anticipate the discussion of human nature in a later chapter, which follows the same general lines: for in every point the animals are like men, but inferior. They possess soul, but without reason[91]; by soul we here mean the twin powers of observation and of independent[188] movement[92]. In a rough way the animals also possess a ruling part[93]. Their power of observation enables them to distinguish what is healthful to them from that which is injurious; their power of movement shapes itself into pursuit of the healthful and avoidance of the injurious[94]. They possess also properties which resemble the human feelings, such as anger, confidence, hope, fear; but they do not in a strict sense possess the same feelings as men[95]. As they cannot attain to virtue, neither can they fall into vice[96].

Plant life.

206. From the animals we pass to the plants. These seem to have soul, because they live and die[97]; yet they have not soul in any strict sense of the word. It will therefore be better not to use this word, but to speak of the ‘growth-power’ (φύσις)[98]. The governing part is situated in the root[99]. The growth of plants both in size and in strength is very remarkable, inasmuch as little seeds, which at first find themselves place in crevices, attain such power that they split huge rocks and destroy noble monuments, thus illustrating what is meant by tone or tension; for it is a spirit which starts from the governing part (the root) and spreads to the trunk and branches,[189] conveying a force equally strong to construct and to destroy[100]. From another point of view we may say that the seed contains the Logos or law of the fully developed plant, for under no possible circumstances can any other plant grow from that seed except the plant of its kind[101].


207. Lowest in the scale come inanimate objects, such as stones[102]. Yet even these have a property which corresponds to soul, and which keeps them together in a particular outward form or shape; this property we call ‘cohesion’ (ἕξις, unitas)[103]; like soul itself, it is a spirit pervading the whole[104], and again it is the Logos of the whole. An external force cannot impart this unity: so that the water contained in a glass is not an ‘inanimate object’ in this sense[105]. In this lowest grade of ‘spirit’ we read in Stoicism the antithesis of the materialism of Epicurus, who postulates for his ‘atoms’ the fundamental property of indivisibility, and can only account for the coherence of the bodies formed from them by supplying them with an elaborate system of ‘hooks and eyes,’ which was a frequent subject of derision to his critics. Epicurus makes the indivisibility of the smallest thing his starting-point, and from it constructs by degrees a compacted universe by arithmetical combination; the Stoics start from the indivisibility of the great whole, and working downwards explain its parts by a gradual shedding of primitive force. God is in fact in the stone by virtue of his power of universal penetration (κρᾶσις δι’ ὅλων)[106].


Gradations of spirit.

208. No existing thing can possess one of the higher grades of spirit without also possessing all the lower. Stones therefore have cohesion, plants growth and cohesion, animals soul growth and cohesion; for these are not different qualities which can be combined by addition, but appearances of the same fundamental quality in varying intensity. Man clearly possesses cohesion, for he has an outward shape; there does not however seem to be any part of him which has merely cohesion. But in the bones, the nails, and the hair are found growth and cohesion only, and these parts grow as the plants do. In the eyes, ears and nose, are sensation, as well as growth and cohesion; that is, there is soul in the sense in which the animals possess soul. It is the intelligence only which in man possesses soul in the highest grade[107].

The conflagration.

209. This universe, in spite of its majesty, beauty and adaptation, in spite of its apparent equipoise and its essential divinity, is destined to perish. ‘Where the parts are perishable, so is the whole; but the parts of the universe are perishable, for they change one into another; therefore the universe is perishable[108].’ Possibly this syllogism would not have appeared so cogent to the Stoics, had they not long before adopted from Heraclitus the impressive belief in the final conflagration, familiar to us from its description in the ‘second epistle of Peter[109].’ According to this theory, the interchange of the elements already described[110] is not evenly balanced, but the upward movement is slightly in excess. In the course of long ages, therefore, all the water will have been converted into[191] air and fire, and the universe will become hot with flame[111]. Then the earth and all upon it will become exhausted for want of moisture, and the heavenly bodies themselves will lose their vitality for want of the exhalations on which they feed. Rivers will cease to flow, the earth will quake, great cities will be swallowed up, star will collide with star. All living things will die, and even the souls of the blest and the gods themselves will once more be absorbed in the fire, which will thus regain its primitive and essential unity[112]. Yet we may not say that the universe dies, for it does not suffer the separation of soul from body[113].

Is the universe perishable?

210. In connexion with the doctrine of the conflagration the Stoics were called upon to take sides upon the favourite philosophic problem whether the universe is perishable, as Democritus and Epicurus hold, or imperishable, as the Peripatetics say[114]. In replying to this question, as in the theory as a whole, they relied on the authority of Heraclitus[115]. The word universe is used in two senses: there is an eternal universe (namely that already described as the universal substance made individual by the possession of quality[116]), which persists throughout an unending[192] series of creations and conflagrations[117]. In another sense the universe, considered in relation to its present ordering, is perishable[118]. Just in the same way the word ‘city’ is used in two senses; and that which is a community of citizens may endure, even though the collection of temples and houses also called the ‘city’ is destroyed by fire[119].

Dissentient Stoics.

211. The doctrine of the conflagration was not maintained by all Stoic teachers with equal conviction. Zeno treated it with fulness in his book ‘on the universe[120]’; and Cleanthes and Chrysippus both assert that the whole universe is destined to change into fire, returning to that from which, as from a seed, it has sprung[121]. In the transition period, owing to the positive influence of Plato and Aristotle, and the critical acumen of Carneades, many leading Stoics abandoned the theory[122]. Posidonius however, though a pupil of Panaetius (the most conspicuous of the doubters[123]), was quite orthodox on this subject; though he pays to his master the tribute of asserting that the universe is the most permanent being imaginable[124], and that its existence will continue through an immense and almost unlimited period of time[125]. In the Roman period the conflagration is not only an accepted dogma, but one that makes a strong appeal to the feelings. For with the conflagration there comes to an end the struggle of the evil against the good; and the Deity may at last claim for himself a period of rest, during which he will contemplate with calmness[193] the history of the universe that has passed away[126], and plan for himself a better one to follow[127].

The reconstruction.

212. Upon the conflagration will follow the reconstruction of the world (παλιγγενεσία, renovatio), which will lead again to a conflagration; the period between one conflagration and the next being termed a ‘great year’ (περίοδος, magnus annus). The conception of the ‘great year’ was borrowed by the Stoics from the Pythagoreans[128], and leads us back ultimately to astronomical calculations; for a great year is the period at the end of which sun, moon and planets all return to their original stations[129]. The phenomena of the sky recur in each new period in the same way as before; and hence we readily infer that all the phenomena of the universe, including the lives of individuals, will recur and take their course again. Although this doctrine appears only slightly connected with the general Stoic system, it was an accepted part of it: and Seneca expresses an instinctive and probably universal feeling when he says that few would willingly repeat their past histories, if they knew they were so doing[130].


213. We have put off till the end of this chapter the discussion of the Stoic theory of Creation, because it is in fact one of the least defined parts of the system. According to the theory of the great year creation is not a single work, but a recurring event; and therefore in one sense the history of the universe has neither beginning nor end. It would however be a mistake to suppose that this point of view was always present to the minds of Stoic teachers. The question of the beginning of things is of primary importance to[194] every philosophy, and the Stoics approached it from many points of view, popular, scientific, mythological and theological, and gave a number of answers accordingly. To the orthodox Stoic all these answers are ultimately one, though the language in which they are expressed differs greatly; whilst the critic of Stoicism would assert that they are derived from different sources and are fundamentally irreconcileable. Seneca suggests four answers to the question ‘Who made the universe?’ It may be an omnipotent deity; or the impersonal Logos; or the divine Spirit working in all things by tension; or (lastly) destiny, that is, the unalterable succession of cause and result[131]. These answers we may examine in order.

The golden age.

214. The view that ‘God made the world’ is that of the theology which was now everywhere becoming popular; and it is usually associated, even when expounded by Stoic teachers, with dualistic views. Before the creation there existed a chaos, matter without shape, dark and damp[132]; the Deity formed a plan, and brought life order and light into the mass: from ‘chaos’ it became ‘cosmos’[133]. This deity is the same that is commonly named Ζεύς[134] or Jove, and is called the ‘father of gods and men.’ The universe so created was at first happy and innocent, as is expressed in the tradition of the Golden Age. Men lived together in societies, willingly obeying the wisest and strongest of their number[135]; none were tempted to wrong their neighbours. They dwelt in natural grottos or in the stems of trees, and obtained nourishment from tame animals and wild fruits. Little by little they made progress in the arts, and learnt to build, to bake, and to make[195] use of metals. These views were especially developed by Posidonius, who believed that in the Mysians of his day, who lived on milk and honey, and abstained from flesh-meat, he could still trace the manners of this happy epoch[136]. It seems probable that it was from Posidonius, rather than from the Pythagoreans, that Varro derived his picture of the Golden Age, which has become familiar to us in turn through the version given by Ovid in his Metamorphoses[137].

Older stoic theory.

215. These conceptions however are only familiar in the later forms of Stoicism. The teaching of the founders of Stoicism is on this matter monistic, and is based upon the teaching of Heraclitus that the world was in the beginning a creative fire, which was alike the creator and the material of creation. The process of creation (διακόσμησις) may be regarded as identical with that of the mutation of the elements on the downward path[138]; with the special note that when the stage of water is reached[139] the deity assumes the shape of the seed Logos (σπερματικὸς λόγος)[140], and begets in the first instance the four elements[141]; then, from a combination of these, trees and animals and all other things after their kind[142]. Yet even this statement is simplified if we regard the original fire as itself containing the seed Logoi of all things that are to be created[143]. To this is to be added that all this is well ordered, as in a duly constituted state[144]. From this point of view the[196] Cosmos is a Cosmopolis, and we reach the border of the investigations which deal with the moral government of the universe, and the political organization of mankind.


216. We may sum up the history of the universe according to the Stoics somewhat in the following way. Body is neither burden on the soul nor its instrument, but all body is of itself instinct with motion, warmth, and life, which are essentially the same. This motion is not entirely that of contraction, or immobility would result; nor entirely that of expansion, else the universe would be scattered into the far distance[145]. One of these motions constantly succeeds the other, as Heraclitus says ‘becoming extinguished by measure, and catching light by measure[146]’; as when a swimmer with all his strength can just hold his own against the force of the stream, or a bird straining its pinions appears to rest suspended in the air[147]. At the beginning of each world-period expansion or tension is supreme, and only the world-soul exists. Next the fiery breath begins to cool, the opposing principle of contraction asserts itself, the universe settles down and shrinks; the aether passes into air, and air in its turn to water. All this while tension is slackening, first in the centre, lastly even in the circumference; yet the vital force is not entirely quenched; beneath the covering of the waters lurks the promise of a new world. The fire still unextinguished within works upon the watery mass or chaos until it evolves from it the four elements as we know them. On its outer edge where it meets the expansive aether, the water rarefies until the belt of air is formed. All the while the outward and inward movements persist; particles of fire still pass into air, and thence into water and earth. Earth still in turn yields to water, water to air, and air to fire (ὁδὸς ἄνω κάτω). Thus by the interaction of conflicting tendencies an equilibrium (ἰσονομία) is established, and the result is the apparent permanence of the phenomenal world[148].[197] Finally the upward movement becomes slightly preponderant, water becomes absorbed in air and air transformed into fire, once more the conflagration results and all the world passes into the fiery breath from which it came[149].


[1] As, for instance, Aristophanes in the Clouds.

[2] ‘vos etiam dicitis esse e regione nobis, e contraria parte terrae, qui adversis vestigiis stent contra nostra vestigia, quos Antipodas vocatis’ Cic. Ac. ii 39, 123.

[3] ‘cum tu, inter scabiem tantam et contagia lucri, | nil parvum sapias et adhuc sublimia cures; | quae mare compescant causae; quid temperet annum; | stellae sponte sua iussaene vagentur et errent’ Hor. Ep. i 12, 14-17.

[4] Sen. Ben. iv 23, 2 to 4.

[5] ‘in aperto iacentes sidera superlabebantur et insigne spectaculum noctium. mundus in praeceps agebatur silentio tantum opus ducens ... libebat intueri signa ex media caeli parte vergentia, rursus ex occulto alia surgentia’ Ep. 90, 42.

[6] ‘[vides] ordinem rerum et naturam per constituta procedere. hiems nunquam aberravit. aestas suo tempore incaluit. autumni verisque, ut solet, facta mutatio est. tam solstitium quam aequinoctium suos dies rettulit’ N. Q. iii 16, 3.

[7] ‘caelestia semper | inconcussa suo volvuntur sidera lapsu’ Lucan Phars. ii 267, 8.

[8] ‘O all ye Works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord; praise and exalt him above all for ever’ Daniel iii 57 to 82.

[9] ‘The spacious firmament on high, | with all the blue ethereal sky, | and spangled heavens, a shining frame, | their great Original proclaim,’ etc. J. Addison (1728).

[10] See above, § 186.

[11] See below, § 303.

[12] καὶ ἔστι κόσμος ὁ ἰδίως ποιὸς τῆς τῶν ὅλων οὐσίας Diog. L. vii 138.

[13] ὅτι θ’ εἷς ἐστιν [ὁ κόσμος] Ζήνων τέ φησιν ἐν τῷ περὶ τοῦ ὅλου καὶ Χρύσιππος ib. 143.

[14] λέγεται δὲ ἑτέρως κόσμος ὁ θεός Stob. i 21, 5.

[15] οἱ ἀπὸ τῆς Στοᾶς ἕνα κόσμον ἀπεφήναντο, ὃν δὴ τὸ πᾶν ἔφασαν εἶναι καὶ τὸ σωματικόν Aët. plac. i 5, 1.

[16] See § 187, note 90; Seneca however thinks there may be more outside the universe than void; ‘illud scrutor, quod ultra mundum iacet, utrumne profunda vastitas sit an et hoc ipsum terminis suis cludatur; qualis sit habitus exclusis’ Dial. viii 5, 6.

[17] Ar. Did. fr. 31.

[18] Arnim ii 534.

[19] Arnim ii 547.

[20] μέρη δέ ἐστιν αὐτοῦ γῆ, ὕδωρ, ἀήρ, πῦρ, ἃ πάντα νεύει ἐπὶ τὸ μέσον Achilles Isag. 9 (Arnim ii 554). But according to another view only earth and water, being naturally heavy, tend towards the middle; whereas air and fire, being naturally light, tend from it; ib. 4 (Arnim ii 555). See § 196.

[21] Arnim ii 557.

[22] See above, § 184.

[23] Arnim ii 540. The universe, being ‘body,’ possesses ‘up’ and ‘down,’ ‘front’ and ‘back,’ and all the other relations, according to the fourth category.

[24] Plut. Sto. rep. 44, 1.

[25] Ar. Did. fr. 31, quoting from Chrysippus. So Cornutus 1; ὁ οὐρανὸς περιέχει κύκλῳ τὴν γῆν.

[26] ‘Hicetas Syracosius caelum solem lunam stellas supera denique omnia stare censet neque praeter terram rem ullam in mundo moveri, quae cum circum axem se summa celeritate convertat et torqueat, eadem effici omnia, quae si stante terra caelum moveretur’ Cic. Ac. ii 39, 123, on which see Prof. Reid’s note.

[27] Plut. plac. phil. iii 13, 3. The question of priority in the statement of this theory has been much discussed in recent years; and it is contended that Hicetas and Ecphantus never existed except as characters in dialogues composed by Heraclides of Pontus, the true discoverer. See H. Steigmüller, Archiv der Geschichte der Philosophie, Berlin 1892; Otto Voss, de Heraclidis Pontici vita et scriptis, Rostock, 1896; Tannery, Pseudonymes antiques (Revue des études grecques, 1897).

[28] ‘pertinebit hoc excussisse, ut sciamus utrum mundus terra stante circumeat an mundo stante terra vertatur. fuerunt enim qui dicerent nos esse, quos rerum natura nescientes ferat’ Sen. N. Q. vii 2, 3. Seneca however appears for himself to reject the doctrine: ‘scimus praeter terram nihil stare, cetera continua velocitate decurrere’ Ep. 93, 9.

[29] Plut. qu. Plat. viii 1, 2 and 3; Aët. plac. ii 24, 8 and iii 17, 9.

[30] Plut. fac. lun. 6, 3.

[31] Simplic. Arist. phys. p. 64.

[32] ‘si in Scythiam aut in Britanniam sphaeram aliquis tulerit hanc, quam nuper familiaris noster effecit Posidonius, cuius singulae conversiones idem efficiunt in sole et in luna et in quinque stellis errantibus, quod efficitur in caelo singulis diebus et noctibus’ Cic. N. D. ii 34, 88.

[33] Schmekel, p. 465.

[34] ‘in rerum natura elementa sunt quattuor’ Sen. N. Q. iii 12, 3.

[35] See above, § 190.

[36] ‘ex terra aqua, ex aqua oritur aer, ex aere aether; deinde retrorsum vicissim ex aethere aer, ex aere aqua, ex aqua terra infima. sic naturis his, ex quibus omnia constant, sursum deorsum ultro citro commeantibus, mundi partium coniunctio continetur’ Cic. N. D. ii 32, 84.

[37] ‘necesse est ut et imus aether habeat aliquid aeri simile, et summus aer non sit dissimilis imo aetheri, quia non fit statim in diversum ex diverso transitus; paulatim ista in confinio vim suam miscent, ut dubitare possis an aer an hic iam aether sit’ Sen. N. Q. ii 14, 2; cf. iv 10.

[38] Arnim ii 555. But see above, § 194, note 20.

[39] ‘de naturis autem sic [Zeno] sentiebat, ut in quattuor initiis rerum illis quintam hanc naturam, ex qua superiores sensum et mentem effici rebantur, non adhiberet: statuebat enim ignem esse ipsam naturam quae quidque gigneret, etiam mentem atque sensus.’ Cic. Ac. i 11, 39; cf. Fin. iv 5, 12.

[40] ‘sic enim se res habet, ut omnia quae alantur et crescant, contineant in se vim caloris: sine qua neque ali possent neque crescere.’ N. D. ii 9, 23 and 24; ‘caloris [natura] vim [habet] in se vitalem, per omnem mundum pertinentem’ ib.

[41] ‘hic noster ignis, quem usus vitae requirit, confector est et consumptor omnium; contra ille corporeus vitalis et salutaris omnia conservat alit auget sustinet sensuque afficit’ ib. ii 15, 41. Cicero is quoting from Cleanthes (fr. 30 P); the teaching of Zeno was the same (fr. 71 B).

[42] τὸ δὲ [πῦρ καὶ] κατ’ ἐξοχὴν στοιχεῖον λέγεσθαι διὰ τὸ ἐξ αὐτοῦ πρώτου τὰ λοιπὰ συνίστασθαι κατὰ μεταβολήν Ar. Did. fr. 21; ‘Stoici ignem, ... unum ex his quattuor elementis, et viventem et sapientem et ipsius mundi fabricatorem ..., eumque omnino ignem deum esse putaverunt’ Aug. Civ. De. viii 5.

[43] ‘[ignem] natura sursum vocat; in illo igne purissimo nihil est quod deprimatur’ Sen. N. Q. ii 13, 1 and 2.

[44] οἱ μὲν Στωϊκοὶ τῷ ἀέρι τὸ πρώτως ψυχρὸν ἀποδιδόντες Plut. prim. frig. 9, 1; ‘aer frigidus per se et obscurus’ Sen. N. Q. ii 10.

[45] ‘ipse vero aer, qui natura est maxime frigidus, minime est expers caloris’ Cic. N. D. ii 10, 26; ‘aer nunquam sine igne est. detrahe illi calorem; rigescet, stabit, durabitur’ Sen. N. Q. iii 10, 4.

[46] ‘quid autem est, quod magis credatur ex se ipso habere intentionem quam spiritus?’ Sen. N. Q. ii 8. Aristotle held that air was warm (Arnim ii 431).

[47] ‘detrahe [aeri] calorem; transiet in humorem’ Sen. N. Q. iii 10, 4.

[48] ‘est aliquid in aqua vitale’ ib. v 5, 2.

[49] ‘non esse terram sine spiritu palam est ... illo dico vitali et vegeto et alente omnia. hunc nisi haberet, quomodo tot arbustis spiritum infunderet non aliunde viventibus, et tot satis?... totum hoc caelum, ... omnes hae stellae ..., hic tam prope a nobis agens cursum sol ... alimentum ex terra trahunt’ ib. vi 16, 1 and 2.

[50] Philod. de ira p. 77 Gomp.

[51] ‘ex quo concluditur, calidum illud atque igneum in omni fusum esse natura’ Cic. N. D. ii 10, 28.

[52] cap. xi, p. 38 D.

[53] Schmekel, pp. 463, 4.

[54] ib. p. 464.

[55] Diog. L. vii 145 and 146; Posidonius is his general authority, but the theory of the solar eclipse he refers to Zeno.

[56] ‘[lunae] tenuissimum lumen facit proximus accessus ad solem, digressus autem longissimus quisque plenissimum’ Cic. N. D. ii 19, 50.

[57] Pliny, Nat. hist. ii 21.

[58] Such was the calculation of Posidonius; see Mayor’s note on Cic. N. D. ii 36, 92. The sun’s diameter is in fact three times as large as Posidonius thought.

[59] This explanation has so plausible a sound that it may not be superfluous to remark that it is scientifically valueless.

[60] Cic. N. D. ii 20, 51.

[61] ‘persuadent enim mathematici terram in medio mundo sitam ad universi caeli complexum quasi puncti instar obtinere, quod κέντρον illi vocant.’ Tusc. disp. i 17, 40.

[62] Diog. L. vii 144 and 145.

[62a] ‘ego nostris non adsentior; non enim existimo cometen subitaneum ignem sed inter aeterna opera naturae’ N. Q. vii 21, 1.

[63] ‘omni terrarum ambitu non semel maior’ Sen. N. Q. vi 16, 2.

[64] Ἡράκλειτος καὶ οἱ Στωϊκοὶ τρέφεσθαι τοὺς ἀστέρας ἐκ τῆς ἐπιγείου ἀναθυμιάσεως Aët. plac. ii 17, 4; ‘[sidera] marinis terrenisque umoribus longo intervallo extenuatis [aluntur]’ Cic. N. D. ii 16, 43; ‘totum hoc caelum ... halitu terrarum [sustinetur]’ Sen. N. Q. vi 16, 2.

[65] Ar. Did. fr. 34; for the text and interpretation see Hirzel, pp. 121, 122.

[66] Aët. plac. ii 14, 1 and 2.

[67] ‘solem quoque animantem esse oportet, et quidem reliqua astra, quae oriantur in ardore caelesti, qui aether vel caelum nominatur’ Cic. N. D. ii 15, 41.

[68] Cic. N. D. iii 14, 37.

[69] ‘ideo enim, sicut et Posidonius et Cleanthes adfirmant, solis meatus a plaga, quae usta dicitur, non recedit, quia sub ipsa currit Oceanus’ Macrob. Sat. i 23, 2.

[70] ‘hac mundi divinitate perspecta tribuenda est sideribus eadem divinitas, quae ex mobilissima purissimaque aetheris parte gignuntur; ... totaque sunt calida atque perlucida, ut ea quoque rectissime animantia esse et sentire atque intellegere dicantur’ Cic. N. D. ii 15, 39.

[71] Sen. Ben. vii 31, 3.

[72] ‘Cleanthes ... solem dominari et rerum potiri putat’ Cic. Ac. ii 41, 126.

[73] Diog. L. vii 139.

[74] ‘idemque [Zeno] hoc modo: “nullius sensu carentis pars aliqua potest esse sentiens. mundi autem partes sentientes sunt: non igitur caret sensu mundus”’ Cic. N. D. ii 8, 22.

[75] ‘quod ratione utitur, id melius est quam id, quod ratione non utitur. nihil autem mundo melius: ratione igitur mundus utitur’ ib. 8, 21; see also § 83.

[76] Diog. L. vii 143; ‘haec ita fieri omnibus inter se concinentibus mundi partibus profecto non possent, nisi ea uno divino et continuato spiritu continerentur’ Cic. N. D. ii 7, 19. This unity of the universe is technically termed συμπάθεια τῶν ὅλων, ‘consentiens conspirans continuata cognatio rerum’ (Cic. as above). It was denied by Panaetius (Schmekel, pp. 191, 192).

[77] ‘est ergo in eo virtus: sapiens est igitur et propterea deus’ Cic. N. D. ii 14, 39; ‘quid est autem, cur non existimes in eo divini aliquid existere, qui dei pars est? totum hoc, quo continemur, et unum est et deus; et socii sumus eius et membra’ Sen. Ep. 92, 30.

[78] ‘From what has been said it follows that the Stoics admitted no essential difference between God and the world. Their system was therefore strictly pantheistic’ Zeller, p. 156.

[79] ὥσπερ δὲ ἡμεῖς ἀπὸ ψυχῆς διοικούμεθα, οὕτω καὶ ὁ κόσμος ψυχὴν ἔχει τὴν συνέχουσαν αὐτόν, καὶ αὔτη καλεῖται Ζεύς Cornutus 2.

[80] Varro Fr. i 27 b (Aug. Civ. De. vii 6).

[81] ‘nihil quod animi quodque rationis est expers, id generare ex se potest animantem compotemque rationis’ Cic. N. D. ii 8, 22.

[82] See above, § 101.

[83] Diog. L. vii 139.

[84] ib.

[85] See below, chap. xi.

[86] Sext. math. viii 270 (Arnim ii 727).

[87] ‘inconsultus illis vanusque cursus est, qualis formicis per arbusta repentibus, quae in summum cacumen, deinde in imum inanes aguntur. his plerique similem vitam agunt, quorum non immerito quis “inquietam inertiam” dixerit’ Sen. Dial. ix 12, 3.

[88] ib. vi 7, 2.

[89] ‘quid dicam, quantus amor bestiarum sit in educandis custodiendisque eis, quae procreaverunt, usque ad eum finem, dum possint se ipsa defendere?’ Cic. N. D. ii 51, 129.

[90] ‘canum vero tam fida custodia, ... quid significat?’ ib. 63, 158.

[91] δῆλον ὅτι τὰ μὲν ἕξει διοικεῖται τὰ δὲ φύσει, τὰ δὲ ἀλόγῳ ψυχῇ Plut. virt. mor. 12.

[92] τὴν τῆς αἰσθήσεώς τε καὶ ἐξ ἑαυτῆς κινήσεως [αἰτίαν ὀνομάζομεν] ψυχήν Galen adv. Iul. v (Arnim ii 718).

[93] ‘omnem naturam necesse est ... habere aliquem in se principatum, ut in homine mentem, in belua quiddam simile mentis’ Cic. N. D. ii 11, 29; ‘ipsum principale parum subtile, parum exactum. capit ergo visus speciesque rerum quibus ad impetus evocetur, sed turbidas et confusas’ Sen. Dial. iii 3, 7 and 8.

[94] ‘bestiis [natura] et sensum et motum dedit, et cum quodam appetitu accessum ad res salutares, a pestiferis recessum’ Cic. N. D. ii 12, 34; and so again, ib. 47, 122.

[95] ‘irasci quidem non magis sciunt quam ignoscere; muta animalia humanis adfectibus carent, habent autem similes illis quosdam impetus’ Sen. Dial. iii 3, 5 and 6.

[96] ‘[ira], cum sit inimica rationi, nusquam nascitur, nisi ubi rationi locus est’ ib. 3, 4.

[97] ‘sunt quaedam quae animam habent nec sunt animalia. placet enim satis et arbustis animam inesse; itaque et vivere illa et mori dicimus’ Sen. Ep. 58, 10; cf. N. Q. vi 16, 1.

[98] οἱ δὲ Στωϊκοὶ οὐδὲ ψυχὴν ὅλως ὀνομάζουσι τὴν τὰ φυτὰ διοικοῦσαν, ἀλλὰ φύσιν Galen de Hipp. et Plut. vi. 561 K (Arnim ii 710). Aristotle had used the term θρεπτικὴ ψυχή in the same sense. So too Cicero: ‘iis quae [gignuntur] e terra natura nihil tribuit amplius quam ut ea alendo atque augendo tueretur’ N. D. ii 12, 33.

[99] ib. ii 11, 29.

[100] ‘parvula admodum semina ... in tantum convalescunt ut ingentia saxa disturbent et monumenta dissolvant. hoc quid est aliud quam intentio spiritus?’ Sen. N. Q. ii 6, 5; and again ‘quid aliud producit fruges et segetem imbecillam ac virentes exigit umbras ac distendit in ramos quam spiritus intentio et unitas?’ ib. ii 6, 6. See also Cic. N. D. ii 32, 81.

[101] Arnim ii 713.

[102] ‘quaedam anima carent, ut saxa; itaque erit aliquid animantibus antiquius, corpus scilicet’ Sen. Ep. 58, 10.

[103] This use of ἕξις must be kept distinct from that which is contrasted with διάθεσις, as habitus from dispositio: see above, § 184.

[104] ἑκτικὸν μὲν οὖν ἐστι πνεῦμα τὸ συνέχον τοὺς λίθους Galen introd. s. med. xiv p. 726 K (Arnim ii 716).

[105] ‘[unitas corporum] ad naturam corporis [refert], nulla ope externa, sed unitate sua cohaerentis’ Sen. N. Q. ii 2, 4.

[106] Alex. de mixt. p. 226, 24-30 Bruns (Arnim ii 1048); Lucian Hermot. 81. See above, § 186.

[107] This gradation of soul-power is most clearly explained by Varro; ‘idem Varro tres esse adfirmat animae gradus in omni universaque natura; unum qui omnes partes corporis, quae vivunt, transit et non habet sensum sed tantum ad vivendum valetudinem; hanc vim in nostro corpore permanare dicit in ossa ungues capillos, sicut in mundo arbores sine sensu ... crescunt et modo quodam suo vivunt; secundum gradum animae, in quo sensus est; hanc vim pervenire in oculos aures nares os tactum; tertium gradum esse animae summum, quod vocatur animus, in quo intellegentia praeminet; hoc praeter hominem omnes carere mortales’ Aug. Civ. De. vii 23.

[108] Diog. L. vii 141.

[109] ‘The heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up.’ 2 Peter iii 10.

[110] See above, § 196.

[111] The theory of the conflagration appears to have been attached to the Stoic system from without, and the logical contention is obviously weak. For if the upward movement is in excess, the earth should disappear before the water. It should also always be remembered that the fire that finally remains is not the destructive, but a constructive element.

[112] ‘ex quo eventurum nostri putant id, ... ut ad extremum omnis mundus ignesceret, cum humore consumpto neque terra ali posset neque remearet aer; cuius ortus, aqua omni exhausta, esse non posset: ita relinqui nihil praeter ignem, a quo rursum animante ac deo renovatio mundi fieret, atque idem ornatus oriretur’ Cic. N. D. ii 46, 118. ‘cum tempus advenerit, quo se mundus renovaturus extinguat, viribus ista se suis caedent et sidera sideribus incurrent et omni flagrante materia uno igne quicquid nunc ex disposito lucet ardebit. nos quoque felices animae atque aeterna sortitae, parva ruinae ingentis accessio, in antiqua elementa vertemur’ Sen. Dial. vi 26, 6.

[113] οὐ ῥητέον ἀποθνῄσκειν τὸν κόσμον Plut. Sto. rep. 39, 2.

[114] ‘[quaeramus] immortalis sit mundus, an inter caduca et ad tempus nata numerandus’ Sen. Dial. viii 4, 31.

[115] ‘Heraclitus after all his speculations on the conflagration of the universe’ To himself (Rendall’s transl.), iii 3. Aristotle interpreted Heraclitus in the same way; thus he paraphrases fr. 26 (B), 66 (D); πάντα τὸ πῦρ ἐπελθὸν κρινέει καὶ καταλήψεται as follows: Ἡράκλειτός φησιν ἅπαντα γίγνεσθαί ποτε πῦρ Met. xi 10.

[116] See above, § 193.

[117] Clem. Al. Strom. v 14 (Arnim ii 590) relying on fr. 20 (B), 30 (D). Philo inc. mund. p. 222, 2 (Arnim ii 620).

[118] Clem. Al. as before, relying on fr. 21 (B), 31a (D); φθαρτὸς μέν [ὁ κόσμος] ὀ κατὰ τὴν διακόσμησιν, Philo as above.

[119] Ar. Did. fr. 29.

[120] Diog. L. vii 142.

[121] Ζήνωνι καὶ Κλεάνθει καὶ Χρυσίππῳ ἀρέσκει τὴν οὐσίαν μεταβάλλειν οἷον εἰς σπέρμα τὸ πῦρ Ar. Did. fr. 36.

[122] See above, § 109.

[123] See above, § 115. For a full discussion of the motives of this change see Schmekel, pp. 304-318.

[124] ‘ita stabilis mundus est atque ita cohaeret ad permanendum, ut nihil ne excogitari quidem possit aptius’ Cic. N. D. ii 45, 115.

[125] ‘[mundi partium coniunctio] certe perdiuturna [est,] permanens ad longinquum et immensum paene tempus’ ib. 33, 85.

[126] ‘[Iuppiter,] resoluto mundo et dis in unum confusis paulisper cessante natura adquiescit sibi, cogitationibus suis traditus’ Sen. Ep. 9, 16. On the relation of Ζεύς to the ἐκπύρωσις see Alex. de mixt. p. 226, 16 B; Philo inc. mund. c. 14, 15.

[127] ‘[conflagratio] fit, cum deo visum ordiri meliora, vetera finiri’ N. Q. iii 28, 7.

[128] Zeller, p. 166.

[129] Cic. N. D. ii 20, 51: see also Schmekel, p. 241.

[130] ‘veniet iterum, qui nos in lucem reponat dies; quem multi recusarent, nisi oblitos reduceret’ Sen. Ep. 36, 10. Socrates and Plato will live again, their friends and fellow citizens will be the same, and they will be again treated as before; Nemes. nat. hom. p. 277 (Arnim ii 625). This theory is plainly not reconcileable with Seneca’s hope of better things (see note 127). See also Hicks, Stoic and Epicurean, pp. 33 sqq.

[131] ‘quisquis formator universi fuit, sive ille deus est potens omnium, sive incorporalis ratio ingentium operum artifex, sive divinus spiritus per omnia maxima et minima aequali intentione diffusus, sive fatum et immutabilis causarum inter se cohaerentium series’ Sen. Dial. xii 8, 3.

[132] This chaos the Stoics identified with the watery stage which preceded the creation of earth in the history of the elements: see Pearson on Zeno fr. 112, 113.

[133] Seneca’s writings are penetrated with this conception: ‘hoc universum ... dies aliquis dissipabit et in confusionem veterem tenebrasque demerget’ Dial. xi 1, 2; cf. Ep. 65, 19.

[134] Δία δ’ αὐτὸν καλοῦμεν, ὅτι δι’ αὐτὸν γίνεται καὶ σώζεται τὰ πάντα Cornutus 2.

[135] ‘illo ergo saeculo, quod aureum perhibent, penes sapientes fuisse regnum Posidonius iudicat’ Sen. Ep. 90, 5.

[136] Strabo vii 296. See generally Schmekel, pp. 288-290.

[137] Ov. Met. xv 96-142; Schmekel p. 288.

[138] κατ’ ἀρχὰς μὲν οὖν καθ’ αὑτὸν ὄντα [τὸν θεὸν] τρέπειν τὴν πᾶσαν οὐσίαν δι’ ἀέρος εἰς ὕδωρ Diog. L. vii 136.

[139] This stage, at which the whole universe is water, even though the four elements have not yet been created, reflects the popular tradition as to Chaos as in the last section: see Pearson p. 102. For the process of creation as described by Cleanthes see Pearson p. 252.

[140] See above, § 178.

[141] καὶ ὥσπερ ἐν τῇ γονῇ τὸ σπέρμα περιέχεται, οὔτω καὶ τοῦτον, σπερματικὸν λόγον ὄντα τοῦ κόσμου ... ἀπογεννᾶν πρῶτον τὰ τέσσαρα στοιχεῖα Diog. L. vii 136.

[142] εἶτα κατὰ μῖξιν τούτων φυτά τε καὶ ζῷα καὶ τὰ ἄλλα γένη ib. 142.

[143] τὸ μέντοι πρῶτον πῦρ εἶναι καθαπερεί τι σπέρμα, τῶν ἁπάντων ἔχον τοὺς λόγους Arist. apud Euseb. praep. ev. xv (Arnim i 98).

[144] ταύτῃ δὲ πάντα διοικεῖσθαι τὰ κατὰ τὸν κόσμον ὑπέρευ, καθάπερ ἐν εὐνομωτάτῃ τινὶ πολιτείᾳ ib.

[145] Galen de trem. 6 VII, p. 616 K (Arnim ii 446).

[146] ἁπτόμενον μέτρα καὶ ἀποσβεννύμενον μέτρα Heracl. Fr. 20 (B), 30 (D).

[147] Galen de musc. i 7 and 8 (Arnim ii 450).

[148] ἐκπύρωσιν μὲν κατὰ τὴν τοῦ θεοῦ δυναστείαν τῶν ἄλλων ἐπικρατήσαντος, διακόσμησιν δὲ κατὰ τὴν τῶν τεττάρων στοιχείων ἰσονομίαν ἣν ἀντιδιδόασιν ἀλλήλοις Philo an. sac. II 242 M (Arnim ii 616).

[149] This concluding section is based upon a note, which was prepared by Mr A. C. Pearson for an edition of Chrysippus now abandoned, and which has been kindly placed by him at my disposal.



The ‘mauvais pas.’

217. In the preceding chapter we have discussed the universe from the scientific standpoint. ‘Such,’ say the Stoics, ‘we find that the universe is; such and such it was in the beginning, and such it will be to the end.’ Their conclusions are reached by observation, classification, and analysis; and yet not entirely by these, for we must admit that there is also employed that power of scientific imagination which the ancients call ‘divination.’ Still on the whole the investigation has been that of the student, and the method that of speculation or contemplation dissociated from any consideration of the usefulness of the results attained. In the study we now undertake all this is changed. Our philosophy proceeds to assert that the universe is good, that it is directed by wise purpose, and that it claims the reverence and obedience of mankind. It calls upon its adherents to view the world with moral approval, and to find in it an ethical standard. Such conclusions cannot be reached by purely discursive reason; but they are such as are everywhere sought by practical men. They appeal to a side of human nature different from that which passes judgment on the conclusions previously reached. From the first position ‘the universe is’ to the second ‘the universe is good’ the step is slippery. We are on the dizzy heights of philosophical speculation, where the most experienced climbers find their way they know not how, and can hardly hold out a hand to help those who are in distress. The Stoic teachers did not perhaps always follow the same track, and now and again they stumbled on the way. Reasoning often proved a weak support, but resolution carried them through somehow to the refuges on which their eyes were all along set.


Fate, providence, and fortune.

218. To the problem of the meaning and government of the universe three answers were current in the epoch with which we are dealing. Either all things take place by fate; or the world is ruled by a divine providence; or else fortune is supreme[1]. These three terms are not always mutually exclusive: Virgil speaks commonly of the ‘fates of the gods[2]’; and ‘fortune’ is frequently personified, not only in common speech, as when the Romans spoke of the ‘fortune of the city,’ but even by a philosopher like Lucretius, who speaks of ‘Fortune the pilot[3],’ with a half-humorous abandonment of exactitude. The Stoics have the merit of not only recognising fully these three powers, but also of using the terms with relative consistency. By fate then we mean an abstract necessity, an impersonal tendency, according to which events flow; by providence a personal will; by fortune the absence of both tendency and purpose, which results in a constant shifting to and fro, as when a man stands upon a ball, and is carried this way and that[4]. All explanations, both of general tendencies and of particular events, must ultimately resolve themselves into one or other of these three; every constructive system must necessarily aim at shewing that the three ultimately coincide, and that philosophy is the guardian and guide of mankind in the understanding of their relations one to another[5].


219. The Stoics hold that ‘all things happen by fate[6].’ To this conclusion they are brought by the same reasoning that moved the Chaldaeans. The visible universe is, and has motion. The heavenly bodies move incessantly in their orbits; there is no force either within or without[200] them that can turn them aside a hair’s breadth, or make their pace quicker or slower. No prayers of men, no prerogatives of gods can make them change[7]. Without cause there is no effect; and each effect is in its turn a new cause. Thus is constructed an endless chain, in which all things living and inanimate are alike bound. If a man knew all the causes that exist, he could trace out all the consequences. What will be, will be; what will not be, cannot be. This first Stoic interpretation of the universe is that of Determinism; it reiterates and drives home the principle that is here our starting-point, ‘the universe is.’ ‘Chrysippus, Posidonius, and Zeno say that all things take place according to fate; and fate is the linked cause of things that are, or the system by which the universe is conducted[8].’ This ‘fate’ is only another name for ‘necessity[9]’; fates cannot be changed[10].

The ‘fallacies’ of determinism.

220. The doctrine of fate appears to contradict directly the belief in human free will, and to lead up to the practical doctrine of laziness (ἀργὸς λόγος, ignava ratio). Once we allow it to be true that ‘what will be, will be,’ it becomes useless to make any effort. As at the present time, this argument was familiar in cases of sickness. One says to the sick person, ‘if it is your fate to recover, then you will recover whether you call in the physician or not; and if it is your fate not to recover, then you will not recover in either case. But it is your fate either to recover or not to recover; therefore it will be useless to call in the physician.’ To which another will reply: ‘you may as well argue that if it is your fate to beget a son, you will beget one equally whether you consort with your wife or not; therefore it will be useless to consort with your[201] wife[11].’ With such verbal disputes Chrysippus delighted to deal; his reply to the ‘lazy argument’ was that certain things go together by fate (iuncta fato, confatalia)[12]. Thus in the above cases it may be determined by fate that you should both call in a physician and recover, both consort with your wife and beget a son.

So once more when Nestor says to the watchmen by his ships:

Keep watch, my lads: let sleep seize no man’s eyes,
Lest foes, loud laughing, take us by surprize[13].

Some one then replies, ‘No, they will not, even if we sleep, if it is predestined that the dock be not seized.’ To such an objection any one can give the right answer: ‘all these things are equally predestined, and go together by fate. There is no such thing as a watch kept by sleepers, a victory won by runaways, or a harvest reaped except after sowing good clean soil[14].’

Logic of possibility.

221. The doctrine of fate also seems to conflict with some of the commonest forms of speech. For if it is correct to say ‘Either this will happen, or it will not happen,’ it seems incorrect to say ‘it may happen’; and still more of the past, since we must admit of any event that ‘it has happened’ or ‘it has not happened,’ there seems no room for the statement ‘it might have happened.’ Chrysippus however maintains that the words ‘may’ and ‘might’ are correctly used, or (in other words) that we may assert that it is or was ‘possible’ for things to happen, whether or not they will happen or have happened. For example, the pearl here is breakable, and may be broken, though fate has ordained that it never will be broken. Cypselus might not have been tyrant of Corinth, though the oracle at Delphi declared a thousand years before the time that he would be[15]. This view had been sharply contested by Diodorus the Megarian; and the controversy was summed up in the ‘master argument.’ This is stated as follows: there are three propositions in conflict with one another in the sense that if any[202] two of them are true, the third is false. They are these: (i) every past event is necessary; (ii) the impossible cannot follow on the possible; (iii) there are things possible that neither are nor will be true. Diodorus accepted the first two; he therefore drew the conclusion that there is nothing possible except that which is or will be true; or in other words he denied the existence of any category of ‘things possible’ distinct from that of facts past or future. Cleanthes and Antipater accepted the second and third propositions: Chrysippus accepted the first and third, but denied the second[16]; that is he admitted that the possible thing (e.g. the breaking of the pearl) might become the impossible because fate had decided to the contrary. The choice intimates much; it shows that the Stoics, however strongly they assert the rule of fate or necessity, intend so to interpret these terms as to reconcile them with the common use of words, that is, with the inherited belief in divine and human will, breaking through the chain of unending cause and effect[17].

Definitions of fate.

222. The next step is professedly taken by way of definition of the word ‘fate’ (εἱμαρμένη, fatum). Exactly as the stuff of the universe, fire, has been explained to be no mere passive or destructive element, but one possessed of creative force and reason, so is fate declared to be no blind or helpless sequence of events, but an active and wise power which regulates the universe. Fate is in fact but another name for the Logos or World-reason. On this point all Stoic teachers are in the main agreed. ‘Fate,’ said Zeno, ‘is a power which stirs matter by the same laws and in the same way; it may equally well be called providence or nature[18].’ Chrysippus gives us several alternative definitions: ‘the essence of fate is a spiritual force, duly ordering the universe[19]’; it is ‘the Logos of the universe[20],’ or ‘the law of events providentially ordered[203] in the universe[21]’; or, ‘the law by which things that have been have been, that are are, that will be will be[22].’ But an important difference appears between the views of Cleanthes and Chrysippus. They are agreed that all that happens by providence also happens by fate. But Cleanthes will not allow, as Chrysippus is prepared to do, that all things that happen by fate happen providentially[23]. With Cleanthes the conception of fate is wider than that of providence, just as in Virgil the fates are more powerful than Jove. Cleanthes, being deeply conscious of the evil existing in the universe, refused to hold providence responsible for it. Chrysippus on the other hand identifies fate with the deity[24].


223. Providence (πρόνοια, providentia) differs from fate, if at all, by including an element of personality. It is a principal dogma of the Stoics that ‘the universe is ruled by providence.’ Cicero indeed assures us that the word ‘providence’ is merely an abbreviation for ‘the providence of the gods,’ and that the dogma really asserts that ‘the universe is ruled by the gods with foresight’; and Balbus, the Stoic advocate, in his treatise, rebukes his opponent Cotta for having travestied the Stoic doctrine by speaking of providence as ‘a fortune-telling hag,’ as though she were some kind of goddess governing the world[25]. But the travesty is at least as instructive as the exposition. If ‘providence’ is on the one hand interpreted as God’s providence[26], it is on the other hand equivalent to Nature[27], and again to the Mind of the universe; it is the Logos,[204] the universal Law, the creative force[28]; not merely an attribute, but a manifestation and bodily presentment of deity. After the final conflagration three joining in one will be left, Zeus, providence, and the creative fire[29]. Lastly, if we consider the process of logical demonstration, it is from the reality of providence that the Stoics deduce the existence of the gods; only from the standpoint of dogmatic instruction is the order reversed.

Beauty of the universe.

224. The work and functions of Providence are open to our view, for it has an aim and pathway of its own[30]. Its first aim is to create a universe capable of enduring; next, it makes that universe complete; thirdly, it endows it with every beauty and excellence[31]. The beauty of the world is a favourite theme upon which Stoic orators discourse at length; this is, in their view, the best world that could possibly have been created[32]. This sense of beauty appears to be derived from two sources, the admiration and awe felt in contemplating the sky, the sun moon and stars moving in it, lofty mountains, rushing rivers, and deep caves[33]; and the gentler delight stirred by the sight of the fertile field, the vine-clad hill, the river-pathway, the flocks and herds, which all subserve the convenience of man. Thus from beauty we pass to usefulness, and the Stoics now maintain that the world has been created and is maintained for the use of man[34]. In strict language, however, we must say that the universe is made for the use of rational beings, that is, for gods and men[35], that[205] it is a home or city in which gods and men alike have a share[36]. From the protection of providence the animals, according to the Stoic view, are in principle entirely excluded. Yet it did not escape notice that nature has often provided for their comfort in particulars, giving them instincts that enable them to maintain life, and an outward shape conformable to the conditions of their existence[37]. And Seneca especially found that man was apt to swell himself too greatly, as if that world were made for him, of which only a small part is adapted for him to dwell in, and where day and night, summer and winter would continue of themselves, even if no man observed them[38]. On the other hand zealots like Chrysippus worked out the detailed application of this theory in a way that provoked the amusement of their critics[39].

Particular providence.

225. Providence cares for mankind in general, and therefore for the parts of mankind, the various continents, nations, and cities. The Stoics are also inclined to hold that it cares for the individual[40]. The difficulty of this belief is great. Busy cities are overthrown by the earthquake; the crops of the careful farmer are blasted by the hailstorm; Socrates is condemned to death by the Athenians; Pythagoras, Zeno and Antiphon meet with violent ends. Yet we may not think that in any of these cases the sufferers were hated or neglected by the gods; it is rather an inevitable necessity that has worked their ruin. The gods who have great things in their charge, must sometimes overlook small matters; they must save the[206] community by sacrificing the individual[41]. The storm may rage in the valley, yet there is peace on the mountain heights[42]. The philosopher who is absorbed in contemplating the great whole cannot even see the flaws in its details. ‘If the gods care for all men,’ says Cicero’s authority, ‘it follows logically that they care for each single man[43].’ ‘Nothing occurs on earth, nor in the heaven above, nor in the sea, apart from thee, O God,’ sings Cleanthes[44]. ‘It is impossible,’ says Chrysippus, ‘that even the least of particulars can fall out otherwise than in accordance with the will of God, with his Word, with law, with justice, and with providence[45].’

Existence of evil.

226. The doctrine of providence, carried to a logical extreme, leads to the denial of the existence of evil. But the Stoics did not draw this conclusion; had they done so, their whole treatment of ethics would have become futile. We have therefore to scrutinize carefully the language that they employ. If we meet with the paradox that ‘this is the best of all possible worlds,’ we must remember that all paradoxes need for their interpretation some sense of humour, and that the ‘best possible’ is not the same as the ‘best imaginable.’ Somewhere or other there is, in a sense, a limitation to the sphere of providence. If again in poetical passages we learn that ‘nothing occurs without God,’ we must not forget the doctrine that good and evil are alike brought in the end into harmony with the divine nature. The most exact statement of Stoic doctrine would seem to be that evil exists indeed, but is not the equal of the good either in intensity or in duration; it is an incident, not a first principle of the universe[46]. From this[207] point of view it becomes possible to ‘plead the cause of the gods,’ to defend providence from the heavy accusations men bring forward against it[47]. Thus the Stoics set about to prove that, in spite of the existence of evil, the universe is ruled by the foresight of a beneficent deity.

Logical solutions.

227. The first argument for the defence is logical, and is pressed by Chrysippus. Good implies its opposite, evil. ‘There could be no justice, unless there were also injustice; no courage, unless there were cowardice; no truth, unless there were falsehood[48].’ Just in the same way we find coarse wit in a comedy, which is objectionable in itself, and yet somehow contributes to the charm of the poem as a whole[49]. The second argument is based upon the doctrine of ‘necessary consequence’ (παρακολούθησις). The general design of the human head required that it should be compacted of small and delicate bones, accompanying which is the inevitable disadvantage that the head may easily be injured by blows[50]. War is an evil, but it turns to good by ridding the world of superfluous population[51].

In many other cases there may be explanations that are beyond our present knowledge, just as there are many kinds of animals of which we do not yet know the use[52].

Moral solutions.

228. More important are those arguments which introduce moral considerations. In the first place the generous intentions of providence are often thwarted by the perverseness of wicked men[53], just as many a son uses his inheritance ill, and yet his father in bequeathing it to him did him a service[54]. The Deity treats good men as a Roman father his children, giving them a stern training, that they may grow in[208] virtue[55]; those that he loves, he hardens[56]. Earthquakes and conflagrations may occur on earth, and perhaps similar catastrophes in the sky, because the world needs to be purified from the wickedness that abounds[57]. The punishment of the wicked, for instance by pestilence and famine, stands for an example to other men, that they may learn to avoid a like disaster[58]. Often, if the wicked have gone unpunished, the penalty descends on their children, their grandchildren, and their descendants[59].

Divine power limited.

229. The very multiplicity of these explanations or excuses betrays the weakness of the case, and the Stoics are in the last resort driven to admit that the Deity is neither all-knowing nor all-powerful, and that the sphere of providence is limited by an all-encircling necessity. Thus Chrysippus explains blunders in divination by saying that ‘the Deity cannot know everything[60],’ and though he ascribes to the Deity all power, yet when hard pressed he admits that he cannot do everything, and that ‘there is a good deal of necessity in the matter[61].’ In this way he is forced back to the position which the shrewder Cleanthes had taken from the first[62]. After we have taken away from fate all that has life or meaning, there remains a residuum, which we can but vaguely assign to some ‘natural necessity[63].’ This point once granted, we realize that it includes many of the detailed explanations previously given. Thus it is by ‘natural necessity’ that good cannot exist without evil; that the past cannot be altered; that the one must suffer for the many[64]; that the good cannot always be[209] separated from the bad[65]; that character grows by the defiance of pain; that the individual is everywhere exposed to disaster from tyranny, war, pestilence, famine, and earthquake.

God and men allied.

230. The recognition of the limitations of divine power creates a new tie between gods and men. Men are no longer the mere instruments of providence, they are its fellow-workers; we may even go further, and boldly call them its fellow-sufferers[66]. God has given man what he could, not what he would[67]; he could not change the stuff on which he had to work[68]; if anything has not been granted to us, it could not have been granted[69]. Under such circumstances a sensible man will not find fault with the gods, who have done their best[70]; nor will he make appeals to them to which they cannot respond[71]. Even less will he quarrel with a destiny that is both blind and deaf[72].


231. In the Stoic explanation of the universe fortune plays no part; it has no existence in the absolute sense of the term[73]. But in practical life, and from the limited point of view of the individuals concerned, fortune is everywhere met with. Her actions are the same as we have[210] just seen to be ascribed to ‘natural necessity’; storms, shipwrecks, plagues, wars, and tyranny[74]. Fortune therefore by no means excludes causality, but includes all events which are without meaning from the point of view of the individual[75]; all advantages or disadvantages which he has not personally merited, and which are not designed for his individual discipline. So great is the sphere of Fortune, that it appears at first that she is mistress of human life; and we may picture her as a tyrant, mocking and merciless, without principle and without policy[76]. The further consideration of Fortune belongs to the department of Ethics.

Has God or man free will?

232. The supreme problems of philosophy, in their relation to gods and men, the fellow-citizens of this universe, centre in the question of free will. If we grant that the divine power is to some extent less in range than the power of necessity, does it still remain open to us to attribute to it within that range some real choice between alternatives, something of that individual power which common opinion attributes to kings? or must we on the other hand regard the divinity as a mere symbol of an unchanging law, girt with the trappings of a royalty from which all real share in government has been withdrawn? Is man again a mere puppet under the control either of fate or of fortune, or has he too some share in creating the destiny to which he must submit? Supposing him to have this power of will, is it bound up with his privilege of reason, or do the animals also possess it?

The Stoics incline towards free will.

233. To such questions the Stoics do not give the direct answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ The critics who wish to tie them down to one or other of the opposing views complain that they wriggle and grow flushed and[211] excited about their answer[77]. They accept apparently both views as dogmas, asserting that ‘all things take place by destiny’ and that ‘something rests with us[78].’ To the first dogma the whole of their treatment of physics points; but the second is required as a postulate for any science of ethics[78a]. The Stoics were in no way disposed to cut the knot by sacrificing one or the other of the principal parts of their philosophy. They go back upon the terms in which the questions are propounded, and endeavour by fresh investigation and more precise definition to do away with the obvious contradiction. In this work they were observed to have a bias in favour of free will[79]. The first sign of this bias we have already noticed in the vindication of the word ‘possible[80].’ If our eyes are fixed merely on the movement of the heavenly bodies, we shall hardly need a term which prints on future events a character which it denies to those that are past. The astronomer can describe to us with equal precision an eclipse taking place a thousand years before the battle of Salamis or a thousand years after. But the word ‘possible’ opens the door to the emotions of hope and fear, to the sense of right and wrong, with regard to the whole range of future events. However delicately the doctrine may be shaded, the main issue is determined when we say of gods and men that they ‘can[81].’


Proximate and principal causes.

234. In order to reconcile the doctrines of causality and possibility, we must first distinguish between outer and inner compulsion, between ‘proximate’ and ‘principal’ causes. If a boy starts a cylinder rolling down hill, he gives it an opportunity without which it could not have rolled; this is the proximate cause (προκαταρκτική, proxima). But the cylinder would not continue rolling except by an inner compulsion, a law within itself, by which it is the nature of cylinders to roll downwards[82]. This is the leading or principal cause (προηγουμένη, antecedens or principalis). So neither in thought nor in action can a man form a judgment, unless there be a picture (φαντασία, visum) presented to his mind. The picture is a proximate cause[83]. But assent to the picture rests with the man himself; the man himself, his reason, his will, is the principal cause. Here we touch on the dogma which is the foundation of ethics: ‘assent is in our power.’ Upon this rests the right of the philosopher to praise or blame, the right of the lawgiver to reward and punish.

The divine nature immutable.

235. We have to investigate further the inner compulsion, the principal cause. With regard to the gods their own disposition is a law to them, their character holds them to their purpose, their majesty makes their decrees immutable[84]. This is the final answer of philosophy, even though men cannot content themselves with it. Even amongst those most disposed to accept Stoic principles, there is a wish that the gods should be allowed a little play, a choice at any rate in small matters not hampered by considerations of destiny and morality[85]; and upon this issue the poet[213] may deviate a little from the sterner creed of the philosopher[86]. Nor must we so interpret the wisdom and benevolence of the gods as to deny the efficacy of prayer[87].

Man’s wickedness.

236. In the case of men free will comes accompanied by a heavy burden of responsibility; for by its exercise men have defied the gods and brought evil into the world. In vain they accuse the gods and destiny, when their own perverseness has exaggerated their destiny, as Homer bears witness:

‘Lo you now, how vainly mortal men do blame the gods! For of us they say comes evil, whereas they even of themselves, through the blindness of their own hearts, have sorrows beyond that which is ordained[88].’

‘Through the blindness of their own hearts they perished, fools[89].’

Equally in vain it is that they protest against the penalties prescribed by the lawgiver for acts to which they allege fate has drawn them[90]. Of their wrongdoing the ‘principal cause’ lies in their own natures; if these are from the first wholesome, the blows of fate are deadened; if they are boorish and undisciplined, they rush of themselves into sin and error[91]. Into the further question, whether a man is responsible for his own nature, our authorities do not enter. It is sufficient that in ethics a way will be pointed out, by which all men, if only they consent to undergo the necessary training, may bring their wills into harmony with the will of the universe. As to the animals, they act upon impulse, but cannot be said in a strict sense to possess will, nor are they proper subjects for praise and blame.


No result without cause.

237. Thus free will, which at first sight appears equivalent to the negation of cause, is by the Stoics identified with the highest type of cause. Action without cause (τὸ ἀναίτιον), effect which is self-caused (τὸ αὐτόματον), are totally denied[92]. Even if a man be given the choice between two actions which appear exactly equivalent, as when he must begin walking either with the right or with the left foot, there is always a cause which determines between them, though (as in all cases of ‘chance’) it is not discernible by human reasoning[93]. In this way destiny, cause, will are all brought into harmony; the dualism (which after all cannot be entirely avoided) is thrust out of sight. ‘All things take place according to destiny, but not all things according to necessity[94]’; thus is saved the principle of free choice (τὸ ἐφ’ ἡμῖν). In other words, the Stoic fixes his attention on the pulsating, living, willing powers of the universe, and refuses to dwell upon any blind non-moral unbending ‘necessity’ of things, even whilst he admits that such necessity is there.

Pons Stoicus.

238. Now that the various steps have been decided upon, by which our philosophy progresses from physics to ethics, it remains to connect them by a pathway in the form of a chain of reasoning. We cannot affirm that the steps have been reached by any logical process, or that the show of reasoning makes them any safer to tread in. But the logical form is a convenient method of impressing dogmatic instruction on the memory, and if it cannot remove difficulties inherent in the subject-matter, it at least so distributes them that they may be overlooked by the zealous and defied by the adventurous. Thus then the argument runs:—

‘If all things are determined by fate, then the ordering of the universe must be smooth and unhindered; if this is so, there must be an ordered universe; and if so, there must be gods. Now if there are gods, the gods are good; and if they are good, goodness exists; and if goodness exists, so[215] also does wisdom. And goodness and wisdom are the same for gods and for men[95]. If this is so, there must be a science of things to be done and to be avoided, that is of right actions and of sins. But right actions are praiseworthy, and sins blameable. Things praiseworthy deserve reward, and things blameable deserve punishment.

Therefore if all things are determined by fate, there must be rewards and punishments[96].’

All this chain of argument is convincing to the man who is already a Stoic; to his opponent it seems to display its weakness at every joint.


[1] The three explanations are very clearly stated by Seneca; ‘dicet aliquis—quid mihi prodest philosophia, si fatum est? quid prodest, si deus rector est? quid prodest, si casus imperat?... quicquid est ex his, Lucili, vel si omnia haec sunt, philosophandum est; sive nos inexorabili lege fata constringunt, sive arbiter deus universi cuncta disponit, sive casus res humanas sine ordine impellit et iactat, philosophia nos tueri debet’ Sen. Ep. 16, 4 and 5.

[2] e.g. Aen. vi 376.

[3] ‘quod procul a nobis flectat Fortuna gubernans’ R. N. v 108.

[4] ‘vaga volubilisque Fortuna’ Cic. Milo 26, 69; ‘fortuna ... amica varietati constantiam respuit’ N. D. ii 16, 43.

[5] Seneca as in note 1.

[6] Diog. L. vii 149; ‘[Stoici] omnia fato fieri dicunt’ Cic. de Fato 15, 33.

[7] ‘et hoc secundum Stoicos, qui omnia dicunt fato regi et semel constituta nec a numinibus posse mutari’ Comment. in Lucan. ii 306 (Arnim ii 924).

[8] So Diog. L. vii 149. Cicero and Seneca describe with admirable clearness the conception of fate: ‘fieri omnia fato ratio cogit fateri. fatum autem id appello, quod Graeci εἱμαρμένην, id est ordinem seriemque causarum, cum causa causae nexa rem ex se gignat’ Cic. Div. i 55, 125; ‘quid enim intellegis fatum? existimo necessitatem rerum omnium actionumque, quam nulla vis rumpat’ Sen. N. Q. ii 36; cf. Ep. 19, 6 and N. Q. ii 35, 2.

[9] Χρύσιππος μὴ διαφέρειν [εἶπε] τοῦ εἱμαρμένου τὸ κατηναγκασμένον Aët. plac. i 27, 2.

[10] ‘Stoicorum dogma [Vergilius] ostendit, nulla ratione posse fata mutari’ Serv. ad Verg. Aen. i 257 (Arnim ii 923).

[11] Orig. cont. Cels. ii 20 (Arnim ii 957).

[12] Cic. de Fato 12, 28 to 13, 30.

[13] Hom. Il. xi 192 and 193.

[14] Plut. fr. 15, 3 (Stob. ii 8, 25).

[15] Cic. de Fato 7, 13.

[16] Epict. Disc. ii 19, 1 sqq.

[17] Cicero gives a humorous comment on this contention: ‘περὶ δυνατῶν me scito κατὰ Διόδωρον κρίνειν; quapropter si venturus es, scito necesse esse te venire: sin autem non es, τῶν ἀδυνάτων est te venire. nunc vide, utra te κρίσις magis delectet, Χρυσιππείαne, an haec, quam noster Diodotus non concoquebat. sed de his etiam rebus, otiosi cum erimus, loquemur; hoc etiam κατὰ Χρύσιππον δυνατόν est’ ad Fam. ix 4.

[18] Aët. plac. i 27, 5.

[19] ib. i 28, 3.

[20] εἱμαρμένη ἐστὶν ὁ τοῦ κόσμου λόγος ib.

[21] ἤ, λόγος τῶν ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ προνοίᾳ διοικουμένων Aët. plac. i 28, 3.

[22] ἢ λόγος καθ’ ὃν τὰ μὲν γεγονότα γέγονε, τὰ δὲ γινόμενα γίνεται, τὰ δὲ γενησόμενα γενήσεται ib.

[23] ‘ex quo fieri, ut quae secundum fatum sunt etiam ex providentia sint, eodemque modo quae secundum providentiam ex fato, ut putat Chrysippus. alii vero, quae quidem ex providentiae auctoritate, fataliter quoque provenire, nec tamen quae fataliter ex providentia, ut Cleanthes’ Chalc. in Timaeum 144 (Arnim ii 933).

[24] ‘Chrysippus ... deum dicit esse ... fatalem vim et necessitatem rerum futurarum’ Cic. N. D. i 15, 39.

[25] ‘a te dictum est anum fatidicam πρόνοιαν a Stoicis induci, id est providentiam. quod eo errore dixisti, quod existimas ab his providentiam fingi quasi quandam deam singularem, quae mundum omnem gubernet et regat. plene autem et perfecte sic dici existimato, providentia deorum mundum administrari’ ib. ii 29, 73 and 74.

[26] Χρύσιππος καὶ Ζήνων ὑπέθεντο ... διὰ πάντων διήκειν τήν πρόνοιαν αὐτοῦ Hippolyt. Philos. 21, 1 (Arnim i 153).

[27] ἥντινα [τὴν εἱμαρμένην] μὴ διαφέρειν πρόνοιαν καὶ φύσιν καλεῖν Aët. plac. i 27, 5.

[28] ‘talis igitur mens mundi cum sit, ob eamque causam vel prudentia vel providentia appellari recte possit (Graece enim πρόνοια dicitur) ...’ Cic. N. D. ii 22, 58. The term ‘nature’ is used in the same sense by Epicurus also, though it does not harmonize very well with his theory; ‘natura gubernans’ R. N. v 78.

[29] ὅταν οὖν ἐκπύρωσις γένηται, μόνον ἄφθαρτον ὄντα τὸν Δία τῶν θεῶν ἀναχωρεῖν ἐπὶ τὴν πρόνοιαν, εἶτα ὁμοῦ γενομένους ἐπὶ μιᾶς τῆς τοῦ αἰθέρος οὐσίας διατελεῖν ἀμφοτέρους Plut. comm. not. 36, 5.

[30] ‘habet quasi viam quandam et sectam, quam sequatur’ Cic. N. D. ii 22, 57.

[31] ib. 22, 58.

[32] ‘[mundi] quidem administratio nihil habet in se, quod reprehendi possit; ex iis enim naturis, quae erant, quod effici optimum potuit, effectum est’ ib. 34, 86.

[33] ib. 39, 98.

[34] ‘omnia hominum causa facta esse et parata’ ib. ii 61, 154.

[35] ‘deorum et hominum causa factum esse mundum’ ib. 53, 133.

[36] ‘est enim mundus quasi communis deorum atque hominum domus aut urbs utrorumque’ Cic. N. D. ii 62, 154; ‘intraturus es urbem dis hominibusque communem’ Sen. Dial. vi 18, 1.

[37] Cic. N. D. ii 47, 122.

[38] ‘neque enim omnia deus homini fecit. quota pars operis tanti nobis committitur?’ Sen. N. Q. vii 30, 3; ‘nimis nos suspicimus, si digni nobis videmur propter quos tanta moveantur’ Dial. iv 27, 2.

[39] Thus ‘horses assist men in fighting, dogs in hunting: lions and leopards provide a discipline in courage: the sow is convenient for sacrifices to the gods, who have given her a soul to serve as salt, and keep the flesh from rotting. The peacock is created for his tail, and the peahen accompanies him for symmetry’s sake. The flea is useful to wake us out of sleep, and the mouse to prevent us from being careless in leaving the cheese about.’ All these particulars are attributed to Chrysippus (Arnim ii 1152, 1163).

[40] ‘etiam singulis a dis immortalibus consuli et provideri solet’ Cic. N. D. ii 65, 164.

[41] ‘nec vero si segetibus aut vinetis cuiuspiam tempestas nocuerit, ... eum, cui quid horum acciderit, aut invisum deo aut neglectum a deo [iudicabimus]. magna di curant, parva neglegunt’ Cic. N. D. ii 66, 167; ‘[universorum] maior dis cura quam singulorum est’ Sen. Dial. i 3, 1. See also note 64.

[42] ‘lege deum minimas rerum discordia turbat, | pacem magna tenent’ Lucan Phars. ii 273.

[43] ‘licet contrahere universitatem generis humani eamque gradatim ad pauciores, postremo deducere ad singulos’ Cic. N. D. ii 65, 164.

[44] Hymn, vv. 15, 16.

[45] Plut. comm. not. 34, 5; Sto. rep. 34, 10.

[46] This appears to be the correct interpretation of the saying of Epictetus—‘as a mark is not set up for the purpose of missing the aim, so neither does the nature of evil exist in the world’ Manual 27 (Long’s transl. ii p. 269, where see his note).

[47] ‘faciam rem non difficilem, causam deorum agam’ Sen. Dial. i 1, 1.

[48] Gell. N. A. vii 1, 4 and 5; ‘nulli vitium est, nisi cui virtus potest esse’ Sen. Ep. 124, 19.

[49] Plut. comm. not. 14, 1; M. Ant. vi 42.

[50] A. Gellius, N. A. vii 1, 9 to 11.

[51] Plut. Sto. rep. 32, 2.

[52] Lactantius de ira 13 (Arnim ii 1172).

[53] πλὴν ὁπόσα ῥέζουσι κακοὶ σφετέρῃσιν ἀνοίαις Cleanthes Hymn 18.

[54] Cic. N. D. iii 28, 70.

[55] ‘patrium deus habet adversus bonos viros animum et illos fortiter amat; operibus, inquit, doloribus, damnis exagitentur, ut verum colligant robur’ Sen. Dial. i 2, 6.

[56] ‘deus quos probat, quos amat, indurat, recognoscit, exercet’ ib. 4, 7; ‘when a difficulty falls upon you, remember that God, like a trainer of wrestlers, has matched you with rough young men’ Epict. Disc. i 24, 1.

[57] This view of Origen is conjecturally assigned to a Stoic source (Arnim ii 1174). See also Philo ap. Euseb. praep. ev. viii 13.

[58] Plut. Sto. rep. 15, 2.

[59] Cic. N. D. iii 38, 90; Sen. Ben. iv 32, 1.

[60] Arnim ii 1183.

[61] φησὶ δὲ πολὺ καὶ τὸ τῆς ἀνάγκης μεμῖχθαι Plut. Sto. rep. 37, 2.

[62] See above, § 222.

[63] Seneca uses the term ‘law of mortality’: ‘minime dis [irascamur]: non enim illorum, sed lege mortalitatis patimur quicquid incommodi accidit’ Dial. iv 28, 4.

[64] ‘sciat illa ipsa, quibus laedi videtur, ad conservationem universi pertinere, et ex iis esse, quae cursum mundi officiumque consummant’ Ep. 74, 20.

[65] ‘di multa ingratis tribuunt. sed illa bonis paraverunt: contingunt etiam malis, quia separari non possunt. excerpere singulos non potuerunt’ Ben. iv 28, 1.

[66] ‘quicquid est quod nos sic vivere sic mori iussit, eadem necessitate et deos adligat’ Dial. i 5, 8.

[67] ‘[God] has given me the things which are in the power of the will. How was he able to make the earthly body free from hindrance? [He could not], and accordingly he has subjected to the revolution of the whole possessions, household things, house, children, wife’ Epict. Disc. iv 1, 100. ‘What says Zeus? since I was not able to do for you what I have mentioned, I have given you a small portion of us’ ib. i 1, 10-12.

[68] ‘non potest artifex mutare materiam’ Sen. Dial. i 5, 9; see also Plut. comm. not. 34, and Mayor on Cic. N. D. ii 34, 86. In technical language, the gods cannot control the ἐπακολουθήματα and συναπτόμενα.

[69] ‘quicquid nobis negatum est, dari non potuit’ Sen. Ben. ii 29, 3.

[70] ‘dementes itaque et ignari veritatis illis imputant saevitiam maris, immodicos imbres, pertinaciam hiemis’ Dial. iv 27, 2.

[71] ‘frustra vota ac studia sunt; habebit quisque quantum illi dies primus adscripsit’ ib. vi 21, 6.

[72] ‘accusare fata possumus, mutare non possumus: stant dura et inexorabilia’ ib. xi 4, 1.

[73] See above, § 226, note 46. Fortune only has ultimate existence if identified with fate or providence; ‘sic nunc naturam voca, fatum, fortunam; omnia eiusdem dei nomina sunt varie utentis sua potestate’ Ben. iv 8, 3.

[74] ‘fortuna ceteros casus rariores habet, primum ab inanimis procellas, tempestates, naufragia, ruinas, incendia; deinde a bestiis ictus, morsus, impetus, etc.’ Cic. Off. ii 6, 19; ‘saepe ... optimorum virorum segetem grando percussit. fert sortem suam quisque’ Sen. Ben. ii 28, 3.

[75] So Fortune is technically defined as ‘a cause not discerned by human reason’; οἱ Στωϊκοὶ [τὴν τύχην] αἰτίαν ἄδηλον ἀνθρωπίνῳ λογισμῷ Aët. plac. i 29, 7.

[76] ‘in regnum Fortunae et quidem durum atque invictum pervenimus, illius arbitrio digna atque indigna passuri’ Sen. Dial. vi 10, 6; ‘hanc imaginem animo tuo propone, ludos facere fortunam’ Ep. 74, 7.

[77] ‘Chrysippus aestuans laboransque quonam pacto explicet et fato omnia fieri et esse aliquid in nobis, intricatur hoc modo’ Gellius N. A. vii 2, 15.

[78] ἐκεῖνο γὰρ δὴ τὸ καταγελαστότατον ἁπάντων, τὸ μίγμα καὶ ἡ σύνοδος τοῦ καὶ ἐπὶ τοῖς ἀνθρώποις τι εἶναι, καὶ εἱρμὸν (seriem causarum) οὐδὲν ἧττον εἶναι Oenom. apud Euseb. pr. ev. vi p. 258 (Arnim ii 978); ‘manente fato aliquid est in hominis arbitrio’ Sen. N. Q. ii 38, 3.

[78a] ‘ubi igitur virtus, si nihil situm est in nobis ipsis?’ Cic. Ac. ii 12, 39.

[79] ‘mihi quidem videtur, cum duae sententiae fuissent veterum philosophorum, una eorum qui censerent omnia ita fato fieri ut id fatum vim necessitatis adferret ... altera eorum quibus viderentur sine ullo fato esse animorum motus voluntarii, Chrysippus tanquam arbiter honorarius medium ferire voluisse, sed adplicat se ad eos potius, qui necessitate motus animorum liberatos volunt’ Cic. de Fato 17, 39.

[80] See above, § 221.

[81] It seems clear that so far as human thought goes ‘possibility’ is only an abstraction from that which ‘a man can do,’ reached by widening the subject ‘man’ so as to include both superhuman powers and half-personified unseen forces. In other words δυνατόν is derived from δύναται, possibilitas from potest. Such a combination as fortuna potest, though quite common, is really a contradiction in terms.

[82] ‘qui protrusit cylindrum, dedit ei principium motionis, volubilitatem autem non dedit’ Cic. de Fato 19, 43.

[83] ‘quamquam adsensio non possit fieri nisi commota viso, tamen id visum proximam causam [habet], non principalem’ ib. 18, 42.

[84] ‘non externa cogunt deos, sed sua illis in legem aeterna voluntas est. statuerunt quae non mutarent, ... nec unquam primi consilii deos paenitet. vis sua illos in proposito tenet’ Sen. Ben. vi 23, 1 and 2; ‘[deus] scripsit quidem fata, sed sequitur. semper paret, semel iussit’ Dial. i 5, 8. So Lucan: ‘qua cuncta coercet se quoque lege tenens’ Phars. ii 9, 10.

[85] ‘disco ... liceat illi [sc. deo] hodieque decernere et ex lege fatorum aliquid derogare, an maiestatis diminutio sit et confessio erroris mutanda fecisse?’ Sen. N. Q. i Prol. 3.

[86] ‘illud te, nulla fati quod lege tenetur, | pro Latio obtestor’ Verg. Aen. xii 819, 820.

[87] ‘nos quoque existimamus vota proficere, salva vi ac potestate fatorum’ Sen. N. Q. ii 37, 2; ‘deos quorum notitiam nulla res effugit, rogamus; et illos vota non exorant, sed admonent’ Ben. v 25, 4.

[88] Hom. Od. i 32-34 (Butcher and Lang’s translation).

[89] ib. 7.

[90] ‘propterea nocentium poenas legibus inique constitutas, si homines ad maleficia non sponte veniunt, sed fato trahuntur’ A. Gellius N. A. vii 2, 5.

[91] ‘contra ea Chrysippus argute disserit: ingenia, inquit, ipsa proinde sunt fato obnoxia, ut proprietas eorum est ipsa et qualitas. nam si sunt per naturam primitus salubriter utiliterque ficta, omnem illam vim quae de fato extrinsecus ingruit, inoffensius tractabiliusque transmittunt. sin vero sunt aspera et inscita et rudia ... sua scaevitate et voluntario impetu in assidua delicta et in errores se ruunt’ A. Gellius N. A. vii 2, 6 to 8.

[92] πρὸς τούτους ὁ Χρύσιππος ἀντιλέγων ... [εἶπε] τὸ ἀναίτιον ὅλως ἀνύπαρκτον εἶναι καὶ τὸ αὐτόματον Plut. Sto. rep. 23, 2 and 3.

[93] τί γὰρ ἄλλο ποιοῦσιν οἱ τὴν τύχην καὶ τὸ αὐτόματον ὁριζόμενοι αἰτίαν ἄδηλον ἀνθρωπίνῳ λογισμῷ; Alex. Aph. de fato 8 (Arnim ii 970).

[94] ib. 10 (Arnim ii 960).

[95] ὁ ἐκ τῆς ποικίλης χορός, οἱ φάσκοντες εἶναι τὴν αὐτὴν ἀρετὴν καὶ ἀλήθειαν ἀνδρὸς καὶ θεοῦ Them. Or. ii p. 27 c (Arnim iii 251).

[96] Alex. Aphrod. de fato 37 (Arnim ii 1005).



Philosophy crystallized.

239. We now turn from the supreme problems of philosophy to the formulation of religious belief and practice. A complete change comes over the spirit of our study. Until now we have been reaching out to observe, to define in words, to coordinate in a monistic system every object, every statement, every generalisation of which the human mind can rightly take account. We have kept eyes and ears open to learn from the East and from the West, from the idealist and the materialist, from the poet and from the critic. At last we have reached our highest point in the dogmas of the providential ordering of the universe and the moral obligation of the individual man; dogmas which, as we have seen, are expounded in logical form, but are essentially such as logic can neither establish nor refute. Stoicism, having once breathed in the mountain air of supreme principles, now begins to descend to the plains of common life, and to find the due application of its theories in the ordering of practical affairs. The theory of religion is treated as the first stage in this downward path; it is the adaptation of philosophy to the language of social life and individual aspiration. By ‘religion’ we mean here the theory of the existence and character of the gods; the practice of ceremonies in their honour and of prayers for their favour; and further, the theory and practice of divination. Upon all these questions philosophy sits as the supreme judge: external authority, embodied in the traditions of Greece and Rome respectively, may claim consideration, but not submission, from the intellect.


Historical changes of view.

240. In this attitude of the Stoics towards religion we can easily distinguish certain historical changes. Zeno represents in the main the critical temper; his tone is revolutionary and atheistic; he contemplates the entire subversion of existing religious practices to make room for a purer system. The principles of Cleanthes are the same, but finer expression in a more cheerful spirit; he has no bitterness as to the present, and much confidence in the future. With Chrysippus there sets in a tide of reconciliation; the ingenuities of etymology and allegorical interpretation are set to work to prove that the old religion contains, at least in germ, the substance of the new. The practical dangers of this method are obvious, and have not escaped the notice of the critics of Stoicism. It may be well to smoothe the path of the convert by allowing him to use old formulas and practices with a new meaning; it is not so easy to excuse the acceptance of a purely formal conversion, by which philosophy enrols as its nominal adherents men who give it no real submission, and increases its numbers at the cost of its sincerity. Posidonius stands out as the type of this weakness; with him begins the subordination of philosophic principle to religious sentiment. In the first period of Roman Stoicism the struggle was acute; many of the Stoics had the courage to defy the inherited prejudices of their fellow-countrymen, others bowed before the storm. Those who condemn the Stoics in a body as having sacrificed their convictions, in order that they might hold the honoured and lucrative positions of defenders of the national religion[1], show a lack both of sympathy and of critical discernment. All through the Roman period the Stoics held in theory a definite and consistent position, which will be expounded in this chapter; in the application of their principles to practical problems they showed that variation of standard and temperament which history has always to record even of societies of honourable and intelligent men. But it must be admitted that as the Stoics increase in numbers, their devotion to vital principles grows weaker, till at last we recognise in Marcus Aurelius both the most critical of Stoic thinkers, and the man in whom the powers of thought are most definitely subjected to the play of old associations and prejudices.


Dogmas of natural religion.

241. The theoretic teaching of the Stoics upon theology follows a very definite programme. Four dogmas need to be established: (i) that gods exist; (ii) that they are living, benevolent, and immortal; (iii) that they govern the universe; and (iv) that they seek the good of men. To each of these dogmas is attached a series of ‘proofs,’ such as are still in vogue as ‘evidences of natural religion[2].’ The whole of this body of teaching may be treated by us as an exposition in popular language of the central dogma that ‘the universe is ordered by providence.’ We have therefore first to consider whether the language used is really appropriate to the philosophic position, or whether it concedes too much to accepted beliefs. Secondly we have to consider whether the ‘proofs’ employed really correspond to the monistic point of view as understood by the Stoics, or whether dualisms abandoned in principle are regaining their old position in connexion with practical problems. Now the third and fourth dogmas, so far as they add to the first two, import nothing more than the general doctrine of providence. The first two dogmas, taken together, substitute for the abstract term ‘providence’ the more concrete, and (as we should phrase it) the more personal conception of a ‘god’ or ‘gods.’ The supreme question of the Stoic religion is therefore whether these terms are rightly used; and it falls into two parts, the use of the singular ‘god,’ carrying with it associations derived from Persism and Judaism; and the use of the plural ‘gods,’ which carries with it a qualified approval of the polytheism of the Greek and Roman pantheons. In accordance with the general principles of our philosophy, the wider question must be first determined.

The ‘nature’ of gods.

242. The ‘gods,’ according to the Stoics, form a ‘natura,’ a department of the universe, a category including one or more individuals. Hence the title of Cicero’s work, ‘de natura deorum’; that is, ‘of the class of beings called gods.’ Each department of philosophy, according to the Stoic interpretation, brings us in the end into touch with this world of deities. In dialectics we are led up to the supreme Reason,[219] the Logos or Word, whose divine being permeates the universe[3]. Metaphysics point us to Body in the purest form[4]; to Spirit which reaches from end to end of the universe[5]; to a first Cause, a Cause of causes, the initial link in the unending chain of events[6]. If we look to the elements in their unceasing interchange, we find deity in all things that shift and suffer metamorphosis, in water, in earth, and in air[7]; how much more then in fire, which in one aspect is the purest of the elements, and in another is the creative rational substance from which the whole universe issues[8]? God is indeed the universe, and all that is in it, though not in the pantheistic sense that he is evenly diffused throughout all things[9]. Look towards this earth, which lies at the centre of the world-order; even in its most repulsive contents, in its grossest matter, there is deity[10]. Lift up your eyes to the heavens; God is the all-encircling sea of fire called Aether[11]; he is sun[12] and stars[13]. Consider the universe in its history; God is its creator[14], its ruler, its upholder[15]. Analyze[220] it; he is its soul[16], its mind[17]. Strain your sight to perceive the meaning of all things: he is fate[18]; he is nature[19]; he is providence; he is necessity[20]. And if we look forward to the problems of politics and ethics, we must say that God is the Universal Law that calls for the reverence of gods and men as a community[21], and equally demands, under the name of conscience, the unhesitating obedience of the individual[22]. Lastly, in the history of mankind, in its great men and useful discoveries, the Stoic masters recognised the element of divinity[23]. In the language of to-day, God is the pole in which all the parallels of human inquiry merge, the x of the problem of the universe, the unknown that is known in his works.

Unity of God.

243. That God is one is a doctrine which the Stoics take over from the Cynics[24] (who therein follow Socrates), and from the general opinion; without making this a formal dogma, they constantly assume it tacitly by using the term ‘God’ (ὁ θεός, deus). With equal readiness they accept in use plural and abstract nouns for the same conception, as di immortales, vis divina. The interpretation of this apparent conflict of language must be found in the general principles of the Stoic monism. Just as the elements are four, and yet are all the creative fire in its changing shapes: just as the virtues are many, and yet there is but one Virtue appearing under different circumstances: so there is but one Deity, appearing under many[221] names[25]. This view the assailants of Stoicism reduce to the absurdity that some Stoic gods are created and mortal, whilst others are uncreated[26]; and again that Zeus is worse than a Proteus, for the latter changed into a few shapes only and those seemly, whilst Zeus has a thousand metamorphoses, and there is nothing so foul that he does not in turn become[27]. No one however who is familiar with the many points of view from which Greek philosophers approach the problem of ‘the one and the many’ will be readily disturbed by this rather superficial criticism.


244. In its practical application the belief in the one-ness of God assimilated itself to the worship of the Greek Ζεύς and the Latin Jove or Juppiter. It would be impossible within the limits of this work to trace the growth of monotheistic feeling in the Greco-Roman world in connexion with the names of these two deities, which in the mythologies are members of societies. We have already suggested that the most direct impulse came from Persism: but in connexion with Roman history it is important to notice that a similar impulse arrived through the Tuscan religion[28]. The nature of the Stoic worship of Zeus is abundantly illustrated by the Hymn of Cleanthes[29]; the intimate sense of companionship between Zeus and his worshipper comes to light, perhaps with a tinge of Cynic sentiment, in all the discourses of Epictetus. A special emphasis is laid on the fatherhood of Zeus. This attribute could be traced back to the poems of Homer, and is prominent throughout Virgil’s Aeneid[30]. It can be explained[222] in connexion with the growth of all living substances[31], but has a more lofty meaning in that man alone shares with the gods the inheritance of reason[32]. But the Homeric association of Zeus with mount Olympus entirely disappears in Stoicism in favour of the Persian conception of a god dwelling in heaven[33]. Further the Stoics agree with the Persians that this god must not be thought of as having the form of any animal or man[34]; he is without form[35], but capable of assuming all forms[36].

Definition of ‘god.’

245. In the Stoic system the conception of godhead as one and supreme much exceeds in importance the conception of a multiplicity of gods. We may therefore reasonably consider at this point the four dogmas of the Stoic theology. The first point to be examined is the definition of the word ‘god.’ As adopted by the Stoic school generally it runs thus: ‘a rational and fiery spirit, having no shape, but changing to what it wills and made like to all things[37].’ This definition corresponds satisfactorily to the Stoic system of physics; but even so we must notice that the statement ‘God is necessity[38]’ is an exaggeration, since ‘necessity’ is entirely devoid of the qualities of reasonableness and plasticity. We find a different definition in Antipater of Tarsus, which is emphasized by the Stoics of the transition period generally:—‘God is a living being,[223] blessed, imperishable, the benefactor of mankind[39].’ This definition points clearly the way to the Stoic system of religion. The difference between the two definitions marks then the step that has here to be taken. There is an accentuation of the property of personality; we pass from a ‘rational spirit’ to a ‘living being.’ There is the addition of a moral quality; we pass from a plastic substance to a beneficent will. The existence of deity in the first sense has been displayed to us by our whole analysis of the universe; it is with regard to the existence of deity in the second sense that we need the constant support of the dogma of providence, expounded in the technical proofs which we now proceed to examine.

Gods exist: the proof from consent.

246. The first Stoic dogma is ‘that gods exist’; and of this the first and most familiar ‘proof’ is that which depends upon common consent. Amongst all men and in all nations there is a fixed conviction that gods exist; the conception is inborn, indeed we may say graven on the minds of all men[40]. To this proof the Stoics attach the highest possible importance; but its justification, as we have seen, presents great difficulties[41]. Cleanthes, the most religiously minded of the early Stoics, had not troubled to conceal his contempt for the opinions of the crowd[42]; and the ridiculous belief in Tartarus[43] is as widespread as that in the gods. Here then we must distinguish; it is not sufficient that a conception should be universal, if it appeals most to foolish folk, and even so is decaying[44]. We must not however at this moment inquire into the[224] causes of this belief[45]; for this is to pass from the question at issue to other proofs of the dogma. It seems clear that the value of this particular proof depends upon the Stoic doctrine of ‘inborn conceptions,’ which we have already discussed[46]. Without going over the whole ground again, the substance of the argument as applied to the present question may be thus stated. The mind of each individual man is by descent akin to the universal reason (κοινὸς λόγος, universa ratio)[47]. Therefore all men carry with them from their birth predispositions in favour of certain preconceptions; and the fact that these preconceptions are common to all is evidence of their divine origin. These predispositions by the growth and training of the individual on the one hand, by his contact with the outer world on the other hand through the organs of sense, ripen into reason. Now all men are born with a predisposition to explain what is beyond their own reasoning powers by the hypothesis of a living and reasoning agent. The belief in gods is therefore a ‘preconception’; and if it is confirmed by growth and experience, it must be of divine origin and therefore self-proving. In the language of our own times, the belief in deity cannot be dispensed with as a working hypothesis; its omission lames human reason.

The proof of the ‘higher Being.’

247. The second proof ‘that gods exist’ is particularly associated with the name of Chrysippus; it may be summed up by saying ‘there must be a Being higher than man.’ We begin by assuming that reason is the highest power in the universe[48]; an axiom which is always subject to limitation on account of the existence of ‘natural necessity.’ According to the Stoics, reason is common to gods and men; if, for the sake of argument, this is denied, then reason is possessed by men alone, for we can certainly find no better name than ‘god’ for higher reasoning beings[49]. If[225] then there exists something greater than human reason can produce, it must be the work of some reasoning being greater than man, that is, it must be the work of the gods. But the heavenly constellations are such a work; therefore they are the work of the gods, and therefore gods exist[50]. To this argument two others are supplementary. First, human reason itself must be derived from some source, and what other can we name but the deity[51]? Secondly, if there are no gods, man must be the supreme being; but such a claim is an arrogant infatuation[52]. The same arguments are attributed in substance to Zeno[53]; nay, so cogent are they that they are in part accepted even by Epicurus[54].

The proofs from the elements and the universe.

248. There follow two proofs connected with gradations in the scale of being. Earth and water are the two lower and grosser elements; and since temperament depends greatly upon climate, we find that men and the animals are all of somewhat heavy character. Air and fire are the higher and more refined elements; how then can we think otherwise than that they are the home of more lofty beings[55]? Then again the universe is either a simple or a composite body. That it is not composite is shown by the harmony (συμπάθεια, concentus) of its parts; it is therefore simple. A simple body must be held together by spirit in some[226] one of its grades, either as unity, growth, or soul. Bodies held together merely by unity, like stones or logs, admit of very simple changes only; but the universe admits of every kind of change and development, and yet keeps together; it must therefore be held together by spirit in its highest grade, that is by soul and by reason. Being a whole, it must be greater than its parts, and include all that its parts possess. But a nature greater than man, and possessing soul and reason, is god[56].

The proof from providence.

249. The proof from the good gifts of providence has been already given in substance; we may however notice the sharp reply given to Epicurus, who maintains that the wondrous contrivances of the Creator for the benefit of man result from the chance clashings of particles. ‘As well contend,’ replies the Stoic, ‘that words and verses come from the chance shifting of the twenty-one letters of the alphabet, and that the poems of Ennius could be produced by shaking together a sufficient quantity of these in a box, and then pouring them out on the ground! Chance would hardly produce a single verse[57].’ The terrors of the universe, its storms, earthquakes, deluges, pestilences and wars, which seem to militate against this proof, are themselves turned into a fourth proof[58]. A further proof, which depends on the contemplation of the movements of the heavenly bodies[59], we have sufficiently considered in connexion with the influence of Chaldaean and Persian thought.

The proof from worship.

250. There remain two proofs, which at first sight may appear singular, but are nevertheless very strongly urged, the proofs from worship and divination; which according to the Stoics are practices that must be justified, but cannot be justified without the[227] postulate of the existence of gods. The proof from worship is best known in the paradoxical form, ‘if there are altars, there are gods,’ which is attributed to Chrysippus[60]. This proof is fused by Seneca with the proof from general consent[61]; but its true character seems to be different. ‘Without gods there can be no piety, for piety is the right worship of the gods. Without gods there can be no holiness, for holiness is a right attitude towards the gods. Without gods there can be no wisdom, for wisdom is the knowledge of things human and divine[62]. But without piety, holiness, and wisdom a reasonable philosophy cannot be constructed. Therefore gods exist.’ The argument in its simplest form is attributed to Zeno himself. ‘It is reasonable to honour the gods. But it is not reasonable to honour the non-existent. Therefore gods exist[63].’

The proof from divination.

251. The final argument is that from divination; which is remarkable in view of the close association between divination and astrology, and the derivation of the latter from a scientific system which finds no place for divine interpositions. But both in Greece and Rome the forecasting of the future had long been reconciled with theology, upon the hypothesis that the gods warn men for their good of coming events. In accepting the truth of divination the Stoics were following the Socratic tradition[64]. This belief was accepted by all the great Stoic masters, and was a ‘citadel’ of their philosophy[65]. It is true that on this point Panaetius exercised the privilege of a suspense of judgment[66]; but all the more did his pupil, the pious Posidonius, lay stress upon the subject, on which he composed five books[66], of which the spirit is preserved to us in Cicero’s books de Divinatione[67]. To Roman writers their[228] inherited State practice of augury, with its elaborate though half-forgotten science, was long a motive for maintaining this belief[68]; but the ancient reputation of the oracle at Delphi maintained its hold still more persistently, and was abandoned with even greater reluctance[69]. Nevertheless the whole group of beliefs was quietly pushed aside by the Romans of the times of the empire, if we may judge from the words of Epictetus—‘what need have I to consult the viscera of victims and the flight of birds, and why do I submit when he (the diviner) says “it is for your interest?” Have I not within me a diviner[70]?’

Divine qualities.

252. Our next enquiry is ‘of what kind are the gods?’ ‘what are their qualities?’ Here the Stoics break more decidedly with tradition. Antipater of Tarsus, as we have seen, defined the deity as ‘a living being, happy, immortal and benevolent towards men[71].’ It is clear that this description can only be applied in its fulness to the supreme deity, for all other gods are destined to pass away in the general conflagration[72]. That the supreme deity is possessed of life and of reason has already been assumed in the proofs of his existence; but we have here a reaffirmation of Stoic doctrine as against those that hold that the world is governed by blind destiny and chance. In stating that the gods are happy the Stoics agree with Epicurus; but according to them this happiness consists not in rest, but in activity. In this distinction the whole difference between the Stoic and Epicurean ideals of happiness, that is, between their ethical ends, comes into sight. The Stoics affirm that the gods are occupied, and that with matters of the greatest concern: and that any other conception is unworthy of them[73]. That the activity of the gods has for its aim the[229] happiness of men is plainly the doctrine of providence; and in making benevolence an attribute of deity[74] the Stoics turn their backs for ever upon the belief in gods that are greedy, jealous, mischievous, and haughty; that is, not merely on such deities as were still a part of the creed of the rustic[75], but also such as had provided the problems of the whole of Greek tragedy, and given the opportunity for the stinging attacks of Epicurus on religion[76]. In examining these attributes of the gods we have anticipated the enquiries which belong to the third and fourth categories; namely as to the disposition and the relativity of the gods. Incidentally we have obtained an excellent illustration of the logical importance of definition and the four categories. Definition implies in advance what is contained in each of the categories, and each category contains implicitly what is contained in the other three; but the logical mechanism enables us so to express the doctrine that it is for ever fixed on the memory. Nor can we easily imagine that the world will ever forget this conception of a Supreme God, in his essence a living all-wise Being; in his attributes immortal, immutable[77], active and benevolent; in his disposition occupied in contemplating and controlling his great work the universe, and in his relation to his creatures constantly concerned for their comfort and happiness.

Stoicism and the old mythology.

253. It must by this time be plain that the whole atmosphere of Stoic religion was alien to that in which the gods of the Greek and Roman mythology had taken root. The nominal absorption of these gods in the Stoic system has therefore no theoretical importance; it was a work of political adaptation. The Stoics themselves doubtless believed that they were restoring the original meaning of the pantheon, and freeing it from corruptions for which the[230] poets were responsible. The original meaning was also, in their judgment, the true meaning. Public opinion was already in revolt against the old theology, both on scientific and on moral grounds. The current tales of the gods were both incredible and revolting[78]; the worship of them too often an attempt to silence the voice of conscience[79]. The Stoics proposed to make the myths symbols of scientific truths, and the ritual an incentive to honest living. Their interpretation was in the main physical; the gods represent respectively the heavenly bodies, the elements, the plants; the amours of the gods represent the continuous work of the great creative forces of nature. To a lesser extent explanations are found in society and in history. These interpretations are greatly assisted by etymologies, according to the doctrine of dialectics that wisdom lies hid in words. The whole process may seem to the modern critic puerile, because the practical occasion for it has passed away; but there are still to be found thinkers who hold that by such processes alone it is possible for human thought to progress without civil society being disrupted.

The Stoic metamorphoses.

254. According to this system Juppiter becomes the fiery heaven, the chief of the elements, the source of all life[80]; Juno is the softer air, into which the fire enters to become the germinating seed[81]. Thus she is called sister as a fellow-element[82], and wife as an instrument in the creative process. From a slightly different point of view Chrysippus interpreted Zeus as God, and Hera as matter; and their union as the commencement of the Creation, when God[231] spread throughout matter the seed Logoi[83]. So again Hephaestus (Vulcan) represents fire; Poseidon (Neptune) is the sea; Dis (Pluto) and Rhea alike stand for the earth[84]. Demeter (Ceres) again is the corn-land[85], and Persephone (Proserpine) the growing crop; as such she is lost to her mother and lamented by her for six months in every year[86]. Apollo is the sun, Luna or Diana the moon[87]; Cronus, son of Earth and Heaven, is Chronos (χρόνος) or Time, and he is said to devour his children, because all that is begotten of time is in turn consumed by time[88]. Athene or Minerva is the daughter of Zeus, to whom he has given birth without a partner, because she is the divine Reason by which he made the universe[89]. Chrysippus wrote at length on the allegorical interpretation of the three Graces[90]; and the work of Cornutus entirely consists of expositions of this system.

Other gods are recognised by the Stoics as personifications of actions or feelings; Eros (Cupid), Aphrodite (Venus) and Pothos (regret) of feelings; Hope (Ἐλπίς, Spes), Justice (Δίκη, Iustitia) and Wise Law (Εὐνομία) of actions[91]. So in particular Ares (Mars) stands for war, or the setting of array against array.

Minor deities.

255. We have already noticed that the gods that are borrowed from the popular mythology do not possess the divine attribute of immortality; and in some of[232] them the attribute of benevolence is not prominent. There was thus a constant tendency to assign them to an order of nature of lower rank than the deity. Such an order was already constituted by the popular belief, adopted by the Stoics, that the whole universe is full of spirits or daemons, some kindly, others mischievous. Highest in the former class stand the divine messengers, who everywhere throughout the universe keep watch over the affairs of men and bring report thereof to God[92]. This was a widespread belief, most in harmony with the principles of Persism, but also met with in the Rigveda[93] and in the poems of Hesiod[94]. These watchmen are however not the spies of a cruel tyrant, but the officers of a benevolent sovereign; we find them early in Roman literature identified with the stars[95], and this may account for the special recognition of the twins Castor and Pollux, as kindly daemons that protect sailors from shipwreck[96]. There are also spirits which are careless, idle, or mischievous[97]; these the deity may employ as his executioners[98]. A daemon which is solely the embodiment of an evil or mischievous principle, such as the Druh of Persism or the Satan of Judaism, is however not to be found in the Stoic system. Amongst daemons are also to be recognised the souls of men parted from their bodies, some good and some evil[99]. All beliefs of this kind are specially characteristic of the type of Stoicism introduced by Posidonius[100]. We may specially note the belief in the Genius which accompanies each man from his[233] birth to his death, (and which closely corresponds to the guardian angel of Persism,) because of the special vogue it obtained in the Roman world[101].

Deified men.

256. The Stoics never failed to close their list of deities with the recognition of men raised to the sky for their services to their fellow-men. Such were Hercules, who rid the earth of monsters; Castor and Pollux; Aesculapius the inventor of medicine; Liber the first cultivator of the vine, and (amongst the Romans) Romulus the founder of the city. These are deities established by the laws of each city[102]. The Stoics do not raise their own leaders to this position, but (as we shall see in dealing with the question of the ‘wise man’) they assign to them almost equal honours. This part of their theory appears to open the door to great practical abuses, since it might be used to justify the claims of the sovereigns of Egypt to be honoured as gods during their lifetime, and those of the Roman emperors that their predecessors should be worshipped as such after their death. But it does not seem that such an abuse actually occurred; and this part of the theory of gods always seems to have been regarded by the Stoics rather as an explanation of historical facts than as a principle of civic submission.


257. Questions as to the worship of the gods belong strictly to the department of politics, so far as public worship is concerned, and of ethics, so far as individuals are concerned. It may however be convenient to anticipate the discussion of them, since we cannot properly appreciate the Stoic views of religion apart from their practical application. We must therefore notice that Stoicism in its beginnings, in accordance with its Cynic origin, was revolutionary, unorthodox, in[234] the popular language atheistic. Not only did it follow the principles of Persism in condemning altogether the worship of images, but it also poured scorn upon the building of temples and the offering of sacrifices. Thus Zeno in his book on ‘the State’ forbids the making of temples and images, because they are unworthy of the deity[103]; an idea which the Romans recognised as not altogether strange to their own history, seeing that for a hundred and seventy years (presumably during the Etruscan supremacy) no images had been known at Rome[104]. The Stoic condemnation of sacrifice is mostly expressed by silence, but it finds words in Seneca[105]. Although they thus denounced in principle the whole existing system of public worship, the Stoics did not feel themselves prevented from taking part in it as a seemly and ancient custom[106]; and the Roman Stoics took a special pride in the reputation of the city for attention to ‘religion,’ that is to say, to the ritual observances due to the gods[107].

Stoic hymnology.

258. Meanwhile the Stoics actively developed their own ideal of worship, namely the rendering of praise and honour to the gods by means of hymns. ‘It is reasonable,’ said Zeno, ‘to honour the gods[108].’ The hymn of Cleanthes shows the form in which this honour could find expression, and though in the main it is an outburst of individual conviction, yet it contains the germ of public hymnology[109]. The value of music in public worship was recognised by Diogenes of[235] Babylon[110]. Posidonius laid it down that the best and most pious worship of the gods is to honour them with pure mind and voice[111]. Epictetus speaks continually in this spirit, and gives us examples of prose hymnology: ‘great is God, who has given us implements with which we shall cultivate the earth[112]’; ‘I give thee all thanks that thou hast allowed me to join in this thy assemblage of men, and to see thy works, and to comprehend this thy administration[113].’ Thus ought we ‘to sing hymns to the deity, and bless him, and tell of his benefits[114].’


259. Prayer to the gods may be taken as more characteristic of private and individual worship, though the paradox is worthy of attention that men should ask nothing of the gods that they cannot ask publicly[115]. The whole problem of prayer is so fully and admirably treated upon Stoic lines by Juvenal in his Tenth Satire, that nothing can be added to his exposition but the evidence that his teaching is in fact Stoic. Let us then enter the temples and listen to men’s prayers. First they beg the doorkeeper for admission, though the deity is equally near to them outside; then they raise their hands to the sky, or press their mouths close to the ear of an image[116]. To the unlistening deity they pour out wishes so shameful that they could not let a fellow-man share their secret[117]. Decrepit old men babble prayers for long life, and make themselves out younger than they are[118]. Another prays for riches[119], or for some other thing that will do him harm[120]. Undertakers pray for a busy season[121]. Parents and nurses (and these are the nearest to innocence) pray for the success of their children in life[122]. They may be excused, but[236] the thoughtful man should know that the advantages for which friends have prayed have often in the end proved a man’s destruction[123]. He should examine his own heart, and recognise that his prayers till now have been unworthy and foolish[124]. Since the gods wish us well, let us leave it to them to choose what is best for us[125]. ‘Look up to God, and say:—deal with me for the future as thou wilt: I am of the same mind as thou art. I am thine, I refuse nothing that pleases thee[126].’ ‘Seek not that the things which happen should happen as you wish; but wish the things that happen to be as they are: and you will have a tranquil flow of life[127].’


260. Prayer so regarded becomes not merely an act of resignation, in which a man ceases to battle against a destiny that is too strong for him; it is a daily examination of his soul, to know whether it is in tune with the purposes of the universe. This examination is a religious exercise, never to be omitted before sleep. It is inculcated both by Seneca and Epictetus. ‘How beautiful’ says Seneca, ‘is this custom of reviewing the whole day! how quiet a sleep follows on self-examination! The mind takes its place on the judgment-seat, investigates its own actions, and awards praise or blame according as they are deserved[128].’ And Epictetus adopts the verses ascribed to Pythagoras:

‘Let sleep not come upon thy languid eyes
Before each daily action thou hast scanned;
What’s done amiss, what done, what left undone;
From first to last examine all, and then
Blame what is wrong, in what is right rejoice[129].’


Religious duty.

261. We are now in a position to sum up in technical language[130] the obligations of religion freed from superstition[131]. Our duty towards the gods is rightly to believe in them, to acknowledge their greatness and benevolence, to submit to them as the creators and rulers of the universe[132]. We may not light lamps in their honour on sabbath-days, nor crowd round their temples in the early hours of the morning; we may not offer Jove a towel nor Juno a mirror[133]. Our service to them is to make ourselves like to them; he who would win their favour, must be a good man[134]. Wheresoever they call us, we must follow with gladness, for they are wiser than we[135]. Without God we must attempt nothing, but we must always reflect, examine ourselves, and seek to learn the divine will[136]. We came here when it pleased God, and we must depart when he shall please[137]. ‘So live,’ says the Stoic teacher, ‘with your fellow-men, as believing that God sees you: so hold converse with God, as to be willing that all men should hear you[138].’


[1] e.g. Theodor Mommsen, Roman History iii 432 (Dickson’s translation).

[2] ‘omnino dividunt nostri totam istam de dis immortalibus quaestionem in partes quattuor. primum docent esse deos; deinde quales sint; tum, mundum ab iis administrari; postremo, consulere eos rebus humanis’ Cic. N. D. ii 1, 3.

[3] ‘λόγον, quem deum [Zeno] nuncupat’ Lact. ver. sap. 9 (Arnim i 160); ‘rationem deum vocat Zeno’ Min. Felix 19, 10 (ib.); ‘[Zeno] rationem quandam, per omnem naturam rerum pertinentem, vi divina esse adfectam putat’ Cic. N. D. i 14, 36.

[4] ἀρχὴν θεὸν τῶν πάντων, σῶμα ὄντα τὸ καθαρώτατον, ὑπέθεντο ὅ τε Χρύσιππος καὶ Ζήνων Hippol. Phil. 21 (Arnim ii 1029).

[5] τὸ δι’ ὅλου κεχωρηκὸς πνεῦμα θεὸν δογματίζουσιν Theoph. Autol. i 4 (Arnim ii 1033).

[6] ‘ille est prima omnium causa, ex qua ceterae pendent’ Sen. Ben. iv 7, 2; ‘hic est causa causarum’ N. Q. ii 45, 2.

[7] ‘[Chrysippus ait] ea quae natura fluerent et manarent [divina esse], ut aquam et terram et aera’ Cic. N. D. i 15, 39.

[8] ‘[Chrysippus] deum ait ignem praeterea esse’ ib.; ‘et deum ipsum ignem putavit [Zeno]’ August. adv. Ac. iii 17, 38 (Arnim i 157); τὸν θεὸν πῦρ νοερὸν εἰπόντες Euseb. pr. ev. 15 (Arnim ii 1050).

[9] οὐσίαν δὲ θεοῦ Ζήνων μέν φησι τὸν ὅλον κόσμον καὶ τὸν οὐρανόν Diog. L. vii 148; ‘Cleanthes ipsum mundum deum dicit esse’ Cic. N. D. i 14, 37; ‘vis illum vocare mundum? non falleris’ Sen. N. Q. ii 45, 3; ‘quid est deus? quod vides totum et quod non vides totum; solus est omnia’ ib. i Prol. 13; ‘Iuppiter est quodcunque vides quocunque moveris’ Lucan Phars. ix 580.

[10] Arnim ii 1037 and 1039.

[11] ‘Zenoni et reliquis fere Stoicis aether videtur summus deus’ Cic. Ac. ii 41, 126.

[12] ‘Cleanthes ... solem dominari et rerum potiri putat’ ib.

[13] ‘[Zeno] astris idem [sc. vim divinam] tribuit’ N. D. i 14, 36; ‘[Cleanthes] divinitatem omnem tribuit astris’ ib. 14, 37.

[14] ‘tibi licet hunc auctorem rerum nostrarum compellare’ Sen. Ben. iv 7, 1.

[15] ‘rectorem custodemque universi’ N. Q. ii 45, 1; ‘stant beneficio eius omnia’ Ben. iv 7, 1.

[16] Arnim i 532.

[17] ‘[Chrysippus] ait vim divinam esse positam in universae naturae animo atque mente’ Cic. N. D. i 15, 39; ‘quid est deus? mens universi’ Sen. N. Q. i Prol. 13; cf. Arnim i 157.

[18] Arnim iii Ant. 35; ‘hunc eundem et fatum si dixeris, non mentieris’ Sen. Ben. iv 7, 2.

[19] ‘quid aliud est natura quam deus?’ ib. 1.

[20] ‘[Chrysippus] deum dicit esse necessitatem rerum futurarum’ Cic. N. D. i 15, 39; cf. Arnim ii 1076.

[21] οὔτε βροτοῖς γέρας ἄλλο τι μεῖζον | οὔτε θεοῖς, ἢ κοινὸν ἀεὶ νόμον ἐν δίκῃ ὑμνεῖν Cleanthes Hymn 38, 39; ‘naturalem legem [Zeno] divinam esse censet’ Cic. N. D. i 14, 36.

[22] ‘[Chrysippus] legis perpetuae et aeternae vim, quae quasi dux vitae atque magistra officiorum sit, Iovem dicit esse’ ib. 15, 40.

[23] ‘[Chrysippus] homines etiam eos, qui immortalitatem essent consecuti [deos dicit esse]’ ib. 15, 39; ‘Persaeus ... inventa ipsa divina dicit’ ib. 15, 38.

[24] ‘Antisthenes populares deos multos, naturalem unum esse [dicit]’ ib. i 13, 32.

[25] κύδιστ’ ἀθανάτων, πολυώνυμε ... Ζεῦ Cleanthes Hymn 1 and 2; ‘Stoici dicunt non esse nisi unum deum et unam eandemque potestatem, quae pro ratione officiorum variis nominibus appellatur’ Servius ad Verg. Georg. i 5 (Arnim ii 1070).

[26] οἱ μὲν γενητοὶ εἶναι καὶ φθαρτοὶ [λέγονται], οἱ δ’ ἀγένητοι Plut. Sto. rep. 38, 5 (quoting from Chrysippus).

[27] Galen qual. inc. 6 (Arnim ii 1056).

[28] ‘ne hoc quidem [illi altissimi viri] crediderunt, Iovem, qualem in Capitolio et in ceteris aedibus colimus, mittere manu fulmina, sed eundem quem nos Iovem intellegunt, rectorem custodemque universi, animum ac spiritum mundi, operis huius dominum et artificem, cui nomen omne convenit ... idem Etruscis visum est’ Sen. N. Q. ii 45, 1 and 3.

[29] See above, § 97.

[30] ‘hominum sator atque deorum’ Aen. i 254, and so passim.

[31] ‘tum pater omnipotens fecundis imbribus Aether | coniugis in gremium laetae descendit, et omnes | magnus alit, magno commixtus corpore, fetus’ Virgil Georg. ii 335-327.

[32] This seems undoubtedly to be the meaning underlying the corrupt text of Cleanthes Hymn 4; Pearson well compares κοινωνίαν δ’ ὑπάρχειν πρὸς ἀλλήλους (scil. θεοῦ καὶ ἀνθρώπων) διὰ τὸ λόγου μετέχειν Euseb. praep. ev. xv 15. See above, § 97.

[33] οὐρανὸς δέ ἐστιν ἡ ἐσχάτη περιφέρεια, ἐν ᾗ πᾶν ἵδρυται τὸ θεῖον Diog. L. vii 138; ..., ἐπεὶ ἐκεῖ ἐστι τὸ κυριώτατον μέρος τῆς τοῦ κόσμου ψυχῆς Corn. N. D. 8.

[34] [Χρύσιππός φησι] παιδαριωδῶς λέγεσθαι καὶ γράφεσθαι καὶ πλάττεσθαι θεοὺς ἀνθρωποειδεῖς, ὃν τρόπον καὶ πόλεις καὶ ποταμούς Philod. de piet. 11 (Arnim ii 1076); ‘est aliquid in illo Stoici dei, iam video; nec cor nec caput habet’ Sen. Apoc. 8, 1.

[35] ‘Stoici negant habere ullam formam deum’ Lact. de ira 18 (Arnim ii 1057).

[36] In connexion with the association of God with the universe we may say (but only in a secondary sense) that God has spherical form; ἰδίαν ἔχει μορφὴν τὸ σφαιροειδές Frag. Herc. p. 250 (Arnim ii 1060); ‘quae vero vita tribuitur isti rotundo deo?’ Cic. N. D. i 10, 24.

[37] πνεῦμα νοερὸν καὶ πυρῶδες, οὐκ ἔχον μὲν μορφήν, μεταβάλλον δ’ εἰς ὃ βούλεται καὶ συνεξομοιούμενον πᾶσιν Aët. plac. i 6, 1.

[38] See above, § 242, note 20.

[39] θεὸν νοοῦμεν ζῷον μακάριον καὶ ἄφθαρτον καὶ εὐποιητικὸν ἀνθρώπων Plut. Sto. rep. 38, 3. A similar definition is given in Diog. L. vii 147 as indicating the view of the Stoics generally.

[40] ‘inter omnes omnium gentium sententia constat; omnibus enim innatum est et in animo quasi insculptum, esse deos’ Cic. N. D. ii 4, 12; ‘nec ulla gens usquam est adeo extra leges moresque proiecta, ut non aliquos deos credat’ Sen. Ep. 117, 6.

[41] See above, § 158.

[42] οὐ γὰρ πλῆθος ἔχει συνετὴν κρίσιν οὔτε δικαίαν | οὔτε καλήν Cleanthes apud Clem. Al. Strom. v 3 (Arnim i 559).

[43] See below, § 294.

[44] ‘videmus ceteras opiniones fictas atque vanas diuturnitate extabuisse ... quae [enim] anus tam excors inveniri potest, quae illa quae quondam credebantur apud inferos portenta, extimescat? opinionum enim commenta delet dies’ Cic. N. D. ii 2, 5.

[45] As for instance Cicero does (following Posidonius) N. D. ii 5, 13.

[46] See above, § 158.

[47] ἡ τῶν ὅλων φύσις ὑπὸ συγγενοῦς ὀφείλει καταλαμβάνεσθαι τοῦ λόγου Sext. math. ix 93, see § 149.

[48] See the next note.

[49] ‘si di non sunt, quid esse potest in rerum natura homine melius? in eo enim solo ratio est, qua nihil potest esse praestantius’ Cic. N. D. ii 6, 16.

[50] ‘si enim’ inquit [Chrysippus] ‘est aliquid in rerum natura, quod potestas humana efficere non possit; est certe id, quod illud efficit, homine melius. atqui res caelestes ab homine confici non possunt. est igitur id, quo illa conficiuntur, homine melius. id autem quid potius dixeris quam deum?’ ib.

[51] ‘et tamen ex ipsa hominum sollertia esse aliquam [mundi] mentem, et eam quidem acriorem et divinam, existimare debemus. unde enim haec homo arripuit? ut ait apud Xenophontem Socrates’ ib. 18.

[52] ‘esse autem hominem, qui nihil in omni mundo melius esse quam se putet, insipientis arrogantiae est’ ib. 16.

[53] See above, § 83.

[54] ‘placet enim illi [sc. Epicuro] esse deos, quia necesse sit praestantem esse aliquam naturam, qua nihil sit melius’ Cic. N. D. ii 17, 46. See however Mayor’s note.

[55] ‘tantum vero ornatum mundi, tantam varietatem pulchritudinemque rerum caelestium ... si non deorum immortalium domicilium putes, nonne plane desipere videare? an ne hoc quidem intellegimus, omnia supera esse meliora, terram autem esse infimam, quam crassissimus circumfundat aer?’ etc. Cic. N. D. ii 6, 17. For the original argument of Chrysippus see Sext. math. ix 86 (Arnim ii 1014).

[56] ‘haec ita fieri omnibus inter se concinentibus mundi partibus profecto non possent, nisi ea uno divino et continuato spiritu continerentur’ Cic. N. D. ii 7, 19. Here cf. Sext. math. ix 78 to 85 (Arnim ii 1013).

[57] Cic. N. D. ii 37, 93.

[58] The third in the exposition of Cleanthes: ‘tertiam [causam dixit Cleanthes esse], quae terreret animos fulminibus tempestatibus ... pestilentia terrae motibus’ ib. 5, 14.

[59] ‘quartam causam esse, eamque vel maximam, conversionem caeli’ ib. 5, 15.

[60] Arnim ii 1019.

[61] ‘[non] in hunc furorem omnes mortales consensissent adloquendi surda numina et inefficaces deos, nisi nossemus illorum beneficia’ Sen. Ben. iv 4, 2.

[62] Sext. math. ix 123 (Arnim ii 1017).

[63] ib. 133 (Arnim i 152). Pearson (Z. 108) describes the argument as a ‘transparent sophistry’; but at the present time there is a widespread tendency towards its revival; see Höffding, Philosophy of Religion, ch. iii.

[64] Xen. Mem. i 1, 2.

[65] Cic. Div. i 5, 9 and 6, 10.

[66] ib. 3, 6; Diog. L. vii 149.

[67] Divination is based upon the συμπάθεια τῶν ὅλων (continuatio coniunctioque naturae), Cic. Div. ii 69, 142. See also Epict. Disc. i 14, and above, § 248.

[68] ‘[Tuscis] summa est fulgurum persequendorum scientia’ Sen. N. Q. ii 32, 2.

[69] ‘non ullo saecula dono | nostra carent maiore deum, quam Delphica sedes | quod siluit’ Lucan Phars. v 111-113; cf. 86-96.

[70] Epict. Disc. ii 7, 3 and 4. The Stoic belief in divination is very severely criticized by Zeller: ‘these vagaries show in Stoicism practical interests preponderating over science’ Stoics, etc. p. 280. But the belief in μαντική is traced back to Zeno and Cleanthes, who were hardly ‘practical’ men in the sense in which Zeller seems to use the word.

[71] See above, § 245.

[72] See above, § 209.

[73] Cic. N. D. ii 30, 77.

[74] ‘[di immortales] nec volunt obesse nec possunt. natura enim illis mitis et placida est’ Sen. Dial. iv 27, 1; ‘di aequali tenore bona sua per gentes populosque distribuunt, unam potentiam sortiti, prodesse’ Ben. vii 31, 4.

[75] ‘Faune, Nympharum fugientum amator, | per meos fines et aprica rura | lenis incedas, abeasque parvis | aequus alumnis’ Hor. C. iii 18, 1-4.

[76] ‘tantum relligio potuit suadere malorum’ Lucr. R. N. i 102.

[77] ‘Does the Zeus at Olympia lift up his brow? No, his look is fixed as becomes him who is ready to say—Irrevocable is my word and shall not fail’ Epict. Disc. ii 8, 26 (quoting from Hom. Il. i 526).

[78] ‘sic vestras hallucinationes fero quemadmodum Iuppiter ineptias poetarum, quorum alius illi alas imposuit, alius cornua; alius adulterum illum induxit et abnoctantem, alius saevum in deos, alius iniquum in homines, alius parricidam et regni alieni paternique expugnatorem’ Sen. Dial. vii 26, 6.

[79] This feeling finds expression at Rome as far back as the times of Hannibal; ‘hoc scelesti illi in animum inducunt suum, | Iovem se placare posse donis, hostiis; | et operam et sumptum perdunt’ Plaut. Rud. 22 to 24.

[80] ‘[Chrysippus] disputat aethera esse eum, quem homines Iovem appellarent’ Cic. N. D. i 15, 40.

[81] ‘aer autem, ut Stoici disputant, Iunonis nomine consecratur ... effeminarunt autem eum Iunonique tribuerunt, quod nihil est eo mollius’ ib. ii 26, 66.

[82] ‘quoniam tenuitate haec elementa paria sunt, dixerunt esse germana’ Serv. ad Verg. Aen. i 47 (Arnim ii 1066).

[83] Rival philosophers in the earlier times, and the church fathers later, concurred in reviling Chrysippus because he extended this principle of interpretation to a ‘disgraceful’ representation found in Argos or Samos, in which Hera receives the divine seed in her mouth; yet Christian antiquity was about to absorb the similar notion of the conception of the Virgin Mary through the ear (‘quae per aurem concepisti’ in an old Latin hymn). Chrysippus of course rightly estimated the absurdity of criticising cosmic processes as if they were breaches of social decency, and by so doing relieved the pious souls of his own day from a real source of distress. See Arnim ii 1071-1074.

[84] Cic. N. D. ii 26, 66.

[85] ib. i 15, 40 and ii 26, 66.

[86] ‘Proserpinam, quam frugum semen esse volunt absconditamque quaeri a matre fingunt’ ib.

[87] ib. 27, 68.

[88] καὶ ὁ χρόνος δὲ τοιοῦτόν τί ἐστι· δαπανᾶται γὰρ ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ τὰ γινόμενα ἐν αὐτῷ Cornutus N. D. 6. The castration of Uranus by Cronus is thus explained by the Stoics: ‘caelestem naturam, id est igneam, quae per sese omnia gigneret, vacare voluerunt ea parte corporis, quae coniunctione alterius egeret ad procreandum’ Cic. N. D. ii 24, 64.

[89] Justin Apol. i 64 (Arnim ii 1096).

[90] Sen. Ben. i 3, 9.

[91] Aët. plac. i 6, 13.

[92] φασὶ δὲ εἶναι καί τινας δαίμονας ἀνθρώπων συμπάθειαν ἔχοντας, ἐπόπτας τῶν ἀνθρωπείων πραγμάτων Diog. L. vii 151.

[93] ‘ásya [váruṇasya] spáśo ná ní miṣanti bhūrṇayaḥ’ Rigv. ix 73, 4.

[94] τρὶς γὰρ μυρίοι εἰσὶν ἐπὶ χθονὶ πουλυβοτείρῃ | ἀθάνατοι Ζηνὸς φύλακες θνητῶν ἀνθρώπων Hes. Op. et Di. 252, 253; see also § 33.

[95] ‘et alia signa de caelo ad terram accidunt; | qui’st imperator divum atque hominum Iuppiter, | is nos per gentis hic alium alia disparat, | hominum qui facta mores pietatem et fidem | noscamus’ Plaut. Rud. 8-12.

[96] καὶ τούτῳ συμφωνεῖ τὸ τοὺς Διοσκούρους ἀγαθούς τινας εἶναι δαίμονας “σωτῆρας εὐσέλμων νεῶν” Sext. math. ix 86 (Arnim ii 1014); ‘clarum Tyndaridae sidus ab infimis | quassas eripiunt aequoribus rates’ Hor. C. iv 8, 31 and 32.

[97] φαύλους δαίμονας ἀπέλιπε Χρύσιππος Plut. def. orac. 17.

[98] καθάπερ οἱ περὶ Χρύσιππον οἴονται φιλόσοφοι φαῦλα δαιμόνια περινοστεῖν, οἷς οἱ θεοὶ δημίοις χρῶνται κολασταῖς ἐπὶ τοὺς ἀνοσίους καὶ ἀδίκους ἀνθρώπους qu. Rom. 51.

[99] Arnim ii 1101.

[100] ‘Posidonius censet homines somniare, quod plenus aer sit immortalium animorum’ Cic. Div. i 30, 64.

[101] ‘Genius, natale comes qui temperat astrum | naturae deus humanae, mortalis in unum | quodque caput’ Hor. Ep. ii 2, 187-189; ‘sepone in praesentia, quae quibusdam placent, uni cuique nostrum paedagogum dari deum, ex eorum numero quos Ovidius ait “de plebe deos”’ Sen. Ep. 110, 1; ‘Zeus has placed by every man a guardian, every man’s daemon, to whom he has committed the care of the man; a guardian who never sleeps, is never deceived’ Epict. Disc. i 14, 12. M. Aurelius identifies this daemon with the principate (To himself v 27).

[102] Aët. plac. i 6, 9 and 15; Cic. N. D. ii 24, 62.

[103] Arnim i 264. The feeling is reflected by Lucan: ‘estne dei sedes, nisi terra et pontus et aër, | et caelum et virtus? superos quid quaerimus ultra?’ Phars. ix 578-9.

[104] ‘Varro dicit antiquos Romanos plus annos centum et septuaginta deos sine simulacro coluisse: “quod si adhuc mansisset, castius di observarentur”’ August. Civ. De. iv 31.

[105] ‘ne in victimis quidem deorum est honor’ Sen. Ben. i 6, 3.

[106] ‘To make libations and to sacrifice and to offer first-fruits according to the custom of our fathers, purely and not meanly nor scantily nor above our ability, is a thing which belongs to all to do’ Epict. Manual 31, 5.

[107] ‘si conferre volumus nostra cum externis; ceteris rebus aut pares aut etiam inferiores reperiemur, religione, id est cultu deorum, multum superiores’ Cic. N. D. ii 3, 8.

[108] See above, § 250.

[109] ὄφρ’ ἂν τιμηθέντες ἀμειβώμεσθά σε τιμῇ, | ὑμνοῦντες τὰ σὰ ἔργα διηνεκές, ὡς ἐπέοικε Hymn 36, 37.

[110] περὶ τοίνυν τῆς διὰ τ(ῶν μου)σικῶν (τ)οῦ θείου τει(μῆς εἴρη)ται μὲν αὐτάρκως καὶ πρότερον Philod. mus. iv 66 (Arnim iii Diog. 64).

[111] ‘cultus autem deorum est optimus idemque castissimus atque sanctissimus plenissimusque pietatis, ut eos semper pura integra incorrupta et mente et voce veneremur’ Cic. N. D. ii 28, 71.

[112] Epict. Disc. i 16, 17.

[113] ib. iii 5, 10.

[114] ib. i 16, 15.

[115] See above, § 121.

[116] ‘non sunt ad caelum elevandae manus, nec exorandus aedituus, ut nos ad aurem simulacri admittat; prope est a te deus’ Sen. Ep. 41, 1.

[117] ‘turpissima vota dis insusurrant; si quis admoverit aurem, conticescent’ ib. 10, 5.

[118] Sen. Dial. x 11, 1.

[119] ib. xi 4, 2.

[120] Ben. ii 14, 5.

[121] ib. vi 38, 1.

[122] Ep. 32, 4.

[123] ‘etiamnunc optas, quod tibi optavit nutrix tua aut paedagogus aut mater? o quam inimica nobis sunt vota nostrorum!’ Sen. Ep. 60, 1.

[124] ‘se quisque consulat et in secretum pectoris sui redeat et inspiciat, quid tacitus optaverit. quam multa sunt vota, quae etiam sibi fateri pudet! quam pauca, quae facere coram teste possimus!’ Ben. vi 38, 5.

[125] This sentiment we can trace back to the time of Plautus: ‘stulti hau scimus frustra ut simus, quom quid cupienter dari | petimus nobis: quasi quid in rem sit possimus noscere’ Plautus Pseud. 683-5.

[126] Epict. Disc. ii 16, 42.

[127] Manual 8.

[128] Sen. Dial. v 36, 2. He describes his practice with naïve detail: ‘cum sublatum e conspectu lumen est et conticuit uxor moris mei iam conscia, totum diem meum scrutor’ ib. 3.

[129] Epict. Disc. iii 10, 2 and 3 (Long’s transl.).

[130] ‘quomodo sint di colendi, solet praecipi’ Sen. Ep. 95, 47.

[131] ‘non enim philosophi solum, verum etiam maiores nostri superstitionem a religione separaverunt’ Cic. N. D. ii 28, 71.

[132] ‘primus est deorum cultus deos credere, deinde reddere illis maiestatem suam, reddere bonitatem, sine qua nulla maiestas est; scire illos esse, qui praesident mundo’ Sen. Ep. 95, 50.

[133] ib. 95, 47.

[134] ‘vis deos propitiare? bonus esto. satis illos coluit, quisquis imitatus est’ ib. 95, 50.

[135] ‘You must believe that you have been placed in the world to obey them, and to yield to them in everything which happens, and voluntarily to follow it as being accomplished by the wisest intelligence’ Epict. Manual 31, 1.

[136] Disc. iii 22, 53 (compare Long’s transl. ii p. 83).

[137] ib. iii 26, 30.

[138] ‘sic vive cum hominibus, tanquam deus videat; sic loquere cum deo, tanquam homines audiant’ Sen. Ep. 10, 5.



Man a part of the universe.

262. From the contemplation of the universe as a whole, both from the purely scientific standpoint in the study of physics, and from the more imaginative point of view in the dogmas of religion, we now pass on to the more intimate study of the individual man, consisting of body and soul. In its main outlines the Stoic theory has already been sketched. Thus it follows from the monistic standpoint that man is not ultimately an ‘individual’ or unit of the universe; for the universe itself is the only true unit, and a man is a part of it which cannot even for a moment break itself off completely from the whole. It is therefore only in a secondary and subordinate sense, and with special reference to the inculcation of ethics, that we can treat Zeno or Lucilius as separate and independent beings. Again, when we say that man ‘consists of body and soul,’ we are merely adopting popular language; for body and soul are ultimately one, and differ only in the gradation of spirit or tone which informs them. Then we have already learnt in dialectics that the highest power of man is that of ‘assent’ or free choice, which is displayed in every exercise of reason; and the same power, though in a different aspect, is at work in every moral act. The doctrine of the universe is based upon the postulate that it is a living rational being on the largest scale; and it follows, that each man is a ‘microcosm,’ and contains in himself a complete representation of the universe in miniature. Lastly, we see that man takes his place in the universe, a little lower than gods and[239] daemons, and as greatly higher than animals as these in their turn surpass plants and inanimate objects; and that his nature, considered as composite, includes all the varying gradations of spirit to which these orders correspond within the universe. In all his parts alike the divine element is immanent and it binds them together in a coherent unity (συμπάθεια τῶν μέρων). It remains for us to put together from these and like points of departure a complete picture of human nature.

The soul’s kingdom.

263. To indicate the general trend of Stoic thought on this subject we propose the title ‘the kingdom of soul.’ Starting with the popular distinction between body and soul, we find that the biologist and the physician alike are preoccupied with the study of the body, that is, of physiology. Only as an afterthought and supplement to their work are the functions of soul considered; and they are treated as far as possible by the methods suggested by the study of the body. All this is reversed in the Stoic philosophy. The study of the soul stands in the front, and is treated by methods directly suggested by observation of the soul’s functions. The body is not entirely ignored, but is considered of comparatively small importance. Further, the soul itself is manifold, and is likened to a State, in which all is well if the governing part have wisdom and benevolence proportionate to its power, and if the lower parts are content to fulfil their respective duties; but if the balance of the State is upset, all becomes disorder and misery[1]. Lastly, this kingdom is itself a part of a greater whole, namely of the Cosmopolis or universal State. By the comparison with a kingdom we are also directed towards right moral principle. For as the citizen of Corinth or Sparta ought not to repine because his city is of less grandeur than Athens, so no man should be anxious because his external opportunities are limited. He has a kingdom in his own mind and soul and heart. Let him be content to find his happiness in rightly administering it.


Man a picture of the universe.

264. The doctrine that man is a representation or reflection of the universe is of unknown antiquity. It seems to be clearly implied by the teaching of Heraclitus, in so far as he lays it down that both the universe and man are vivified and controlled by the Logos[2]. The technical terms ‘macrocosm’ (μέγας κόσμος) and ‘microcosm’ (μικρὸς κόσμος), are, as we have seen, employed by Aristotle[3]. But even if we suppose that this conception is a commonplace of Greek philosophy, it is in Stoicism alone that it is of fundamental importance, and knit up with the whole framework of the system. And accordingly we find that all the Stoic masters laid stress upon this principle. The words of Zeno suggest to Cicero that ‘the universe displays all impulses of will and all corresponding actions just like ourselves when we are stirred through the mind and the senses[4].’ Cleanthes used the dogma of the soul of the universe to explain the existence of the human soul as a part of it[5]. Chrysippus found a foundation for ethics in the doctrine that man should study and imitate the universe[6]. Diogenes of Babylon says boldly that God penetrates the universe, as soul the man[7]; and Seneca that the relation of God to matter is the same as that of the soul to the body[8]. It is little wonder therefore if by Philo’s time the analogy had become a commonplace, and philosophers of more than one school were accustomed to say that ‘man is a little universe, and the universe a big man[9].’ God is therefore the soul of the universe[10]; on the other hand the soul is God within the human body[11], a self-moving force encased in relatively inert[241] matter, providence at work within the limitations of natural necessity.

Soul and body.

265. The dualism of body and soul appears in a sharply defined shape in Persism, and upon it depends the popular dogma of the immortality of the soul, which (as we have already noticed) reached the Greco-Roman world from a Persian source[12]. It appears to be rooted in the more primitive ways of thinking termed ‘Animism’ and ‘Spiritism,’ in which men felt the presence both in natural objects and within themselves of forces which they conceived as distinct beings. According to this system a man’s soul often assumes bodily shape, and quits his body even during life, either in sleep or during a swoon; sometimes indeed it may be seen to run away and return in the shape of a mouse or a hare. At death it is seen to leave the man as a breath of air, and to enter the atmosphere. But besides his soul a man possesses a shadow, a likeness, a double, a ghost, a name; and all these in varying degrees contribute to form what we should call his personality. In the animistic system the soul survives the man, and why not? But this survival is vaguely conceived, and only credited so far as the evidence of the senses supports it. Its formulation in the doctrine of immortality belongs to a more advanced stage of human thought[13].

Soul and body are one.

266. This dualistic conception could be and was incorporated in the Stoic system to the same extent as the dualism of God and matter, but no further. Ultimately, as we have already learnt, soul and body are one; or, in the language of paradox, ‘soul is body[14].’ This follows not only from the general principles of our philosophy, but also specifically from observation of the facts of human life. ‘The incorporeal,’ argued Cleanthes, ‘cannot be affected by the corporeal, nor the corporeal by the incorporeal, but only the corporeal by the corporeal. But the soul is affected[242] by the body in disease and in mutilation, and the body by the soul, for it reddens in shame and becomes pale in fear: therefore the soul is body[15].’ And similarly Chrysippus argues: ‘death is the separation of soul from body. Now the incorporeal neither joins with nor is separated from body, but the soul does both. The soul therefore is body[16].’ This doctrine is commonly adduced as evidence of the ‘materialism’ of the Stoics: yet the Stoics do not say that ‘soul is matter,’ and (as we shall see) they explain its workings upon principles quite different to the laws of physics or chemistry. The essential unity of body and soul follows also from the way in which we acquire knowledge of them. For we perceive body by the touch; and we learn the workings of the soul by a kind of touch, called the inward touch (ἐντὸς ἁφή)[17].

Mind, soul and body.

267. Having realised that the division of man into soul and body is not ultimate, we may more easily prepare ourselves to make other divisions. A division into three parts, (i) body, (ii) soul or life (ψυχή, anima), and (iii) mind (νοῦς, animus), was widely accepted in Stoic times, and in particular by the school of Epicurus; the mind being that which man has, and the animals have not[18]. The Stoics develope this division by the principle of the microcosm. Mind is that which man has in common with the deity; life that which he has in common with the animals; growth (φύσις, natura), that which he has in common with the plants, as for instance is shown in the hair and nails[19]. Man also possesses[243] cohesion (ἕξις, unitas) but never apart from higher powers. Further these four, mind, soul, growth, and cohesion, are not different in kind, but all are spirits (πνεύματα) which by their varying degrees of tension (τόνος, intentio) are, to a less or greater extent, removed from the divine being, the primal stuff. In this sense man is not one, nor two, but multiple, as the deity is multiple[20].

The soul is fire and air.

268. The soul in its substance or stuff is fire, identical with the creative fire which is the primal stuff of the universe[21]. But the popular conception, according to which the soul is air or breath, and is seen to leave the body at death, is also not without truth[22]. There is a very general opinion that the soul is a mixture of fire and air, or is hot air[23]. By this a Stoic would not mean that the soul was a compound of two different elements, but that it was a variety of fire in the first stage of the downward path, beginning to form air by relaxation of its tension: but even so this form of the doctrine was steadily subordinated to the older doctrine of Heraclitus, that the soul is identical with the divine fire. Formally the soul is defined, like the deity himself, as a ‘fiery intelligent spirit[24]’; and in this definition it would seem that we have no right to emphasize the connexion between the word ‘spirit’ (πνεῦμα) and its original meaning ‘breath,’ since the word has in our philosophy many other associations. It is further a Stoic paradox that ‘the soul is an animal,’ just as God is an animal. But the soul and the man are not on that account two[244] animals; all that is meant is that men and the brutes, by reason of their being endowed with soul, become animals[25].

The temperaments.

269. According to another theory, which is probably not specifically Stoic, but derived from the Greek physicians, the soul is compounded of all four elements in varying proportion, and the character of each soul (subject, in the Stoic theory, to the supreme control of reason[26]) is determined by the proportion or ‘temperament’ (κρᾶσις, temperatura) of the four elements. There are accordingly four temperaments, the fervid, the frigid, the dry, and the moist, according to the preponderance of fire, air, earth, and water respectively[27]. Dull and sleepy natures are those in which there is an excess of the gross elements of earth and water[28]; whilst an excess of cold air makes a man timorous, and an excess of fire makes him passionate[29]. These characters are impressed upon a man from birth and by his bodily conditions, and within the limits indicated above are unalterable[30]. The ‘temperaments’ have always been a favourite subject of discussion in popular philosophy[31].

The soul’s parts.

270. The characteristic attribute of the soul is that it is self-moved (αὐτοκίνητον)[32]. Although in this point the Stoics agree with Plato, they do not go on to[245] name life as another attribute, for they do not agree with the argument of the Phaedo that the soul, having life as an inseparable attribute, is incapable of mortality. We pass on to the dispositions of the soul, which correspond to its ‘parts’ in other philosophies, and are indeed often called its parts. But the soul has not in the strict sense parts[33]; what are so called are its activities[34], which are usually reckoned as eight in number, though the precise reckoning is of no importance[35]. The eight parts of the soul are the ruling part or ‘principate[36],’ the five senses, and the powers of speech and generation. The seven parts or powers other than the principate are subject to it and do its bidding, so that the soul is, as we have called it, a kingdom in itself. These seven parts are associated each with a separate bodily organ, but at the same time each is connected with the principate. They may therefore be identified with ‘spirits which extend from the principate to the organs, like the arms of an octopus[37],’ where by a ‘spirit’ we mean a pulsation or thrill, implying incessant motion and tension. The principate itself, that is the mind, is also a spirit possessed of a still higher tension; and the general agreement of the Stoics places its throne conveniently at the heart and in the centre of the body[38].[246] Accordingly Posidonius defined the soul’s parts as ‘powers of one substance seated at the heart[39].’

Aspects of the principate.

271. If we now fix our attention on the principate itself, we find it no more simple than the universe, the deity, the man, or the soul. In particular it resembles the deity in that, although essentially one, it is called by many names. It is the soul in its reasoning aspect, the reason, the intellect (λογικὴ ψυχή, νοῦς, διάνοια)[40]; it is also the ‘ego,’ that is, the will, the energy, the capacity for action[41]. It is in one aspect the divinity in us, world-wide, universal; in another the individual man with his special bent and character; so that we may even be said to have two souls in us, the world-soul and each man’s particular soul[42]. The principate becomes also in turn each of the other functions or parts of the soul, for each of them is an aspect of the principate (ἡγεμονικόν πως ἔχον)[43]. In addition the principate has many titles of honour, as when Marcus Aurelius terms it the Pilot[44], the King and Lawgiver[45], the Controller and Governor[46], the God within[47].

The principate as reason.

272. Although for the purpose of discussion we may distinguish between reason and will, they are in fact everywhere intermingled. Thus the principate as the reasoning part of the soul includes the powers of perception, assent, comprehension, and of reason in the narrower sense, that is, the power of combining the various conceptions of the mind, so as ultimately to form a consistent[247] system[48]. But amongst these powers assent is equally an act of the will; and on the other hand the judgments formed by the reasoning mind are not purely speculative, but lead up to action; so that it is the reasoning power which must be kept pure, in order that it may duly control the soul’s inclinations and aversions, its aims and shrinkings, its plans, interests and assents[49]. If in the Stoic theory the greater emphasis always appears to be laid on the reason, it is the more necessary in interpreting it to bear in mind that we are speaking of the reason of an active and social being.

The principate as will.

273. The maintenance of the principate as will in a right condition is the problem of ethics; and it is important to understand what this right condition is. The answer is to be found in a series of analogies, drawn from all departments of philosophy. Thus from the standpoint of physics the right condition is a proper strain or tension, as opposed to slackness or unsteadiness[50]. In theology it is the agreement of the particular will with the divine or universal will[51]. From the point of view of the will itself it is the strength and force (ἰσχὺς καὶ κράτος) of the will, the attitude that makes a man say ‘I can[52].’ Again it is that state of the soul which corresponds to health in the body[53]; and in a quiet mood the Stoic may describe it as a restful and calm condition[54]. Finally, if the soul as a whole is compared to a State, the principate in its function as the will may at its best be compared to a just and kind sovereign; but if this[248] aim is missed, it may turn into a greedy and ungovernable tyrant[55].

The principate, divine and human.

274. The principate, as it is of divine origin[56], and destined, as we shall see, to be re-absorbed in the deity, may rightly be called god: it is a god making its settlement and home in a human body[57]: it keeps watch within over the moral principle[58]. In the language of paradox we may say to each man, ‘You are a god[59].’ Of this principle we see the proof in that man interests himself in things divine[60], and in it we find the first incentive to a lofty morality[61]. As however the deity is not conceived in human form, and is not subject to human weaknesses, there comes a point at which, in the study of the human principate, we part company with the divine; and this point we reach both when we consider the principate with regard to its seven distinctly human manifestations, and when we consider its possible degradation from the standard of health and virtue. We now turn to the seven parts or powers of the human soul which are subordinate to the reasoning faculty.

Powers of the principate.

275. The first five powers of the principate are those which are recognised in popular philosophy as the ‘five senses.’ To materialistic philosophers nothing is plainer than that these are functions of the body;[249] is it not the eye which sees, and the ear which hears[62]? This the Stoic denies. The eye does not see, but the soul sees through the eye as through an open door. The ear does not hear, but the soul hears through the ear. Sensation therefore is an activity of the principate, acting in the manner already described in the chapter on ‘Reason and Speech[63].’ The soul is actively engaged, and sends forth its powers as water from a fountain; the sense-organs are passively affected by the objects perceived[64]. Subject to this general principle, sensation (αἴσθησις, sensus) may be variously defined. It is ‘a spirit which penetrates from the principate to the sensory processes’; it includes alike the mind-picture (φαντασία, visum), that is, the first rough sketch which the mind shapes when stimulated by the sense-organ; the assent (συγκατάθεσις, adsensus), which the mind gives or refuses to this sketch; and the final act of comprehension (κατάληψις, comprehensio) by which this assent is sealed or ratified[65]. Of these the middle stage is the most important, so that we may say paradoxically ‘sense is assent[66].’ Only in a secondary and popular way can we use the word sensation to denote the physical apparatus of the sensory organs (αἰσθητήρια), as when we say of a blind man ‘he has lost the sense of sight[67].’

The five senses.

276. The nature of sensation is more particularly described in the case of sight and hearing. In the first case there proceed from the eyes rays, which cause tension in the air, reaching towards the object seen[68]; this[250] tension is cone-shaped, and as the distance from the pupil of the eye increases, the base of the cone is increased in size, whilst the vigour of the sight diminishes. This human activity effects vision of itself in one case; for we say ‘darkness is visible,’ when the eye shoots forth light at it, and correctly recognises that it is darkness[69]. But in complete vision there is an opposing wave-motion coming from the object, and the two waves become mutually absorbed: hence Posidonius called sight ‘absorption’ (σύμφυσις)[70]. Similarly, in the case of hearing, the pulsation (which, as we have seen, comes in the first instance from the principate) spreads from the ear to the speaker, and (as is now more distinctly specified) from the speaker to the hearer; this reverse pulsation being circular in shape, like the waves excited on the surface of a lake by throwing a stone into the water[71]. Of the sensations of smell, taste and touch we only hear that they are respectively (i) a spirit extending from the principate to the nostrils, (ii) a spirit extending from the principate to the tongue, and (iii) a spirit extending to the surface of the body and resulting in the easily-appreciated touch of an object[72].

Other activities.

277. The Stoic account of the functions of the soul displayed in the ordinary activities of life is either defective or mutilated; for even a slight outline of the subject should surely include at least breathing, eating (with drinking), speech, walking, and lifting. We need not however doubt that these, equally with the five senses, are all ‘spirits stretching from the principate’ to the bodily organs. This is expressly stated of walking[73]. Of all such activities we must consider voice to be typical, when it is described as the sixth function of the soul. Voice is described as ‘pulsating air[74],’ set in motion by the tongue[75]; but we can trace it back through the[251] throat to some source below, which we can without difficulty identify with the heart, the seat of the principate[76]. The voice is indeed in a special relationship to the principate, since the spoken word is but another aspect of the thought which is expressed by it[77].


278. The seventh and last of the subordinate powers of the soul, according to the Stoics, is that of procreation. This part of their system is of great importance, not only for the study of human nature, but even in a higher degree for its indirect bearing upon the question of the development of the universe through ‘procreative principles’ (σπερματικοὶ λόγοι), or, as we have termed them above, ‘seed powers[78].’ That all things grow after their kind is of course matter of common knowledge; no combination of circumstances, no scientific arrangement of sustenance can make of an acorn anything but an oak, or of a hen’s egg anything but a chicken. But in the common view this is, at least primarily, a corporeal or material process; whereas the Stoics assert that it is not only a property of the soul, but one so primary and fundamental that it must be also assumed as a first principle of physical science. Before approaching the subject from the Stoic standpoint, it may be well to see how far materialistic theories, ancient and modern, can carry us.


279. Lucretius finds this a very simple matter:

‘Children often resemble not only their parents, but also their grandparents and more remote ancestors. The explanation is that the parents contain in their bodies a large number of atoms, which they have received from their ancestors and pass on to their descendants. In the chance clashing of atoms in procreation Venus produces all kinds of effects, bringing about resemblances between children and their forebears, not only in the face and person, but also in the look, the voice, and the hair[79].’

This account has a generally plausible sound until we bear in mind that it is the fundamental property of atoms that,[252] though their own variety is limited, they can form things in infinite variety by changes in their combination and arrangement. They are like the letters out of which words, sentences, and poems are made up; and we can hardly expect to reproduce the voice or the spirit of an Aeschylus by a fresh shuffling of the letters contained in the Agamemnon. On the contrary, seeing that the atoms contained in the bodies of parents have largely been drawn from plants and animals, we could confidently reckon upon finding the complete fauna and flora of the neighbourhood amongst their offspring. Lucretius in effect postulates in his theory that particular atoms have a representative and creative character, passing from father to child in inseparable association with the marks of the human race, and endowed with a special capacity of combining with other like atoms to form the substratum of specifically human features. In giving his atoms these properties he is insensibly approximating to the Stoic standpoint.

Modern theories.

280. Modern biologists deal with this subject with the minuteness of detail of which the microscope is the instrument, and with the wealth of illustration which results from the incessant accumulation of ascertained facts. But they are perhaps open to the criticism that where they reach the borders of their own science, they are apt to introduce references to the sciences of chemistry and physics as explaining all difficulties, even in regions to which these sciences do not apply. The following account is taken from one of the most eminent of them:

‘Hertwig discovered that the one essential occurrence in impregnation is the coalescence of the two sexual cells and their nuclei. Of the millions of male spermatozoa which swarm round a female egg-cell, only one forces its way into its plasmic substance. The nuclei of the two cells are drawn together by a mysterious force which we conceive as a chemical sense-activity akin to smell, approach each other and melt into one. So there arises through the sensitiveness of the two sexual nuclei, as a result of erotic chemotropism, a new cell which unites the inherited capacities of both parents; the spermatozoon contributes the paternal, the egg-cell the maternal characteristics to the primary-cell, from which the child is developed[80].’


In another passage the same author sums up his results in bold language from which all qualifications and admissions of imperfect knowledge have disappeared:

‘Physiology has proved that all the phenomena of life may be reduced to chemical and physical processes. The cell-theory has shown us that all the complicated phenomena of the life of the higher plants and animals may be deduced from the simple physico-chemical processes in the elementary organism of the microscopic cells, and the material basis of them is the plasma of the cell-body[81].’

Their inadequacy.

281. These utterances may be considered typical of modern materialistic philosophy in its extreme form. We may nevertheless infer from the references to a ‘mysterious force,’ ‘chemical sense-activity akin to smell,’ and ‘erotic chemotropism,’ that the analogies to biological facts which the writer finds in chemical science stand in need of further elucidation. We may notice further that the ‘atom’ has entirely disappeared from the discussion, and that the ‘material basis’ of the facts is a ‘plasma’ or ‘plasmic substance,’ something in fact which stands related to a ‘protoplasm’ of which the chemical and physical sciences know nothing, but which distinctly resembles the ‘fiery creative body’ which is the foundation of the Stoic physics. Further we must notice that the old problem of ‘the one and the many’ reappears in this modern description; for the cell and its nucleus are neither exactly one nor exactly two, but something which passes from two to one and from one to two; further the nuclei of the two cells, being drawn together, coalesce, and from their union is developed a ‘new cell’ which unites the capacities of its ‘parents.’ Modern science, therefore, although it has apparently simplified the history of generation by reducing it to the combination of two units out of many millions that are incessantly being produced by parent organisms, has left the philosophical problem of the manner of their combination entirely unchanged. In these microscopic cells is latent the whole physical and spiritual inheritance of the parents, whether men, animals or plants, from which they are derived; just as the atoms of Epicurus possess the germ of free[254] will[82], so the cells of Haeckel smell and love, struggle for marriage union, melt away in each other’s embrace, and lose their own individuality at the moment that a new being enters the universe.

Creation and procreation.

282. If then the phenomena of reproduction are essentially the same, whether we consider the relations of two human beings or those of infinitesimal elements which seem to belong to another order of being, we are already prepared for the Stoic principle that the creation of the universe is repeated in miniature in the bringing into life of each individual amongst the millions of millions of organic beings which people it. From this standpoint we gain fresh light upon the Stoic theory of creation, and particularly of the relation of the eternal Logos to the infinite multitude of procreative principles or ‘seed-powers.’ Again, it is with the general theory of creation in our minds that we must revert to the Stoic explanation of ordinary generation. This is to him no humble or unclean function of the members of the body; it is the whole man, in his divine and human nature, that is concerned[83]. The ‘procreative principle’ in each man is a part of his soul[84]; ‘the seed is a spirit’ (or pulsation) ‘extending from the principate to the parts of generation[85].’ It is an emanation from the individual in which one becomes two, and two become one. Just as the human soul is a ‘fragment’ of the divine, so is the seed a fragment torn away, as it were, from the souls of parents and ancestors[86].



283. In the seed is contained the whole build of the man that is to be[87]. It is therefore important to know whether the procreative principle in the embryo is derived from one or both parents, and if the latter, whether in equal proportion. The Stoics do not appear to have kept entirely free from the common prepossession, embodied in the law of paternal descent, according to which the male element is alone active in the development of the organism; and so they allege that the female seed is lacking in tone and generative power[88]. On the other hand observation appeared to them to show that children inherit the psychical and bodily qualities of both parents, and the general tendency of their philosophy was towards the equalization of the sexes. On the whole the latter considerations prevailed, so that the doctrine of Stoicism, as of modern times, was that qualities, both of body and soul, are inherited from the seed of both parents[89]; wherein the possibility remains open, that in particular cases the debt to one parent may be greater than to the other[90].


284. The Stoic psychology is in its fundamental principles wholly distinct from that of Plato; which does not at all prevent its exponents, and least of all those like Panaetius and Posidonius who were admirers of Plato, from making use of his system as an auxiliary to their own. Plato divided the soul into three parts; the rational part, the emotional (and volitional) part, and the appetitive[91]. Both the two latter parts need the control of the reason, but the emotional part[256] inclines to virtue, the appetitive to vice[92]. The rational part, as with the Stoics, is peculiar to man; the other two are also possessed by the animals, and the appetitive soul even by plants. The Stoics do not however seriously allow any kinship between virtue and the emotions, and they deal with this part of the subject as follows. Nature has implanted in all living things certain impulses which are directed towards some object. An impulse towards an object is called ‘appetite’ (ὁρμή, appetitus or impetus); an impulse to avoid an object is called ‘aversion’ (ἀφορμή, alienatio)[93]. In man appetite should be governed by reason; if this is so, it becomes ‘reasonable desire’ (ὄρεξις εὔλογος, recta appetitio)[94]; if otherwise, it becomes ‘unreasonable desire’ (ὄρεξις ἀπειθὴς λόγῳ) or ‘concupiscence’ (ἐπιθυμία, libido). To living things lower in the scale than man terms that are related to reason can of course not apply.

Will and responsibility.

285. Practical choice is, according to the Stoics, exactly analogous to intellectual decision. Just as the powers of sensation never deceive us[95], so also the impulses are never in themselves irrational[96]. An impulse is an adumbration of a course of action as proper to be pursued[97]; to this the will gives or refuses its assent[98]. It is the will, and the will only, which is liable to error, and this through want of proper tone and self-control. If there is this want, it appears in a false judgment, a weak assent, an exaggerated impulse; and this is what we call in ethics a perturbation[99]. A healthy assent[257] leads up to a right action: a false assent to a blunder or sin. Hence we hold to the Socratic paradox that ‘no one sins willingly’ (οὐδεὶς ἑκὼν ἁμαρτάνει); for the true and natural will cannot sin; it must first be warped to a false judgment and weakened by slackness of tone. We can equally use the paradox that ‘every voluntary action is a judgment of the intellect,’ or (in few words) that ‘virtue is wisdom’ (φρόνησις ἡ ἀρετή). In such views we find a starting-point for dealing with the problems of ethics, including those of the ethical ideal or supreme good, its application to daily duties, and its failure through ignorance or weakness of soul.

The body.

286. We pass on to consider the body, but at no great length; partly because many functions often considered as bodily are by the Stoics treated as belonging to the soul (as sensations and impulses), partly because the study of the body is rather the task of the physician than of the philosopher. In the body we may notice separately (i) the bones, sinews, and joints, constituting the framework on which the whole is built up; (ii) the surface, including beauty of outline and features, and (iii) the complexion, which suffuses a glow over the surface and most attracts the attention[100]. No absolute distinction can be made between body and soul. Generally speaking, we may say that body is composed of the two grosser elements, earth and water, whilst soul (as we have seen) rests on the two higher elements of air and fire[101]; of the gradations of spirit body possesses distinctively (but not exclusively) that of coherence (ἕξις), whilst it shares with the soul the principle of growth (φύσις)[102]. Yet these contrasts are after all only secondary. As surely as soul is body so body is soul, and[258] divinity penetrates into its humblest parts. In its practical applications Stoicism dwells so little on the body that the wise man seems hardly conscious of its existence.

‘The flesh.’

287. Side by side with the strictly Stoic view of the body we find in all the Roman literature another conception which is strongly dualistic, and which we cannot but think to be drawn from some non-Stoic source[103]. According to this view the body, often called the ‘flesh,’ is essentially evil[104]; it is the prison-house of the soul[105], the source of corruption of the will[106], the hindrance to a clear insight of the intelligence. In the language picturesquely adopted in the Pilgrim’s Progress (after St Paul), it is a burden which the enlightened man longs to shake off[107]. For the body so understood we find abusive names; it is the husk in which the grain is concealed[108], the ass from which the owner should be ready to part at any moment[109]. This language tends to be exaggerated and morbid, and leads in practice to asceticism[110]. It appealed in ancient as in modern times to a widespread sentiment, but is not reconcileable with the main teaching of the Stoic philosophy.


Dignity of the body.

288. According to the true Stoic view, the body is a dwelling-place or temple inhabited for a time by the principate, its divinity[111]. Therefore the body as such is deserving of respect, even of veneration[112]. In particular the erect form of the human body is a mark of divine favour, by which it is hinted that man is fitted to contemplate the operations of the heavens[113]. The whole framework of the body, from the organs of sensation to those by which we breathe, swallow, and digest, is a masterpiece of divine skill, and an evidence of the care of providence for man[114]. And even as an architect provides that those parts of the house which are offensive to sight and smell should be out of sight, so has nature hidden away those parts of the body which are necessarily offensive, at a distance from the organs of sense[115]. The Stoic conception of the dignity of the body is symbolized in practical ethics by the culture of the beard, in which is latent the broad principle of attention to the cleanliness and healthy development of every part of the body.

It is a mark of the Oriental associations of Stoicism that this respect for the body is never associated with the Hellenic cult of the body as displayed in art and gymnastics.

Junction of soul and body.

289. Having now studied man in all his parts, it is time to consider how those parts are compacted together, how man grows and decays, and what varieties of mankind exist. First then the principate is combined with the lower functions of the soul, and every part of the soul, by the process of interpenetration (σῶμα διὰ σώματος[260] χωρεῖ)[116]; or (from a slightly different point of view) upon body which has cohesion (ἕξις) is overlaid growth, on growth soul, and on soul reason; so that the higher tension presupposes the lower, but not vice versa. In the act of generation the soul loses its higher tensions; and consequently the embryo possesses neither human nor animal soul, but only the principles of cohesion and growth. It is in fact a vegetable[117], but necessarily differs from other vegetables in having the potentiality of rising to a higher grade of spirit[118]. At the moment of birth its growth-power (φύσις) is brought into contact with the cold air, and through this chill it rises to the grade of animal life, and becomes soul (ψυχή from ψῦξις)[119]. This etymological theory provokes the ridicule of opponents, who do not fail to point out that soul, standing nearer to the divine fire than growth, ought to be produced by warmth rather than by coolness; but the Stoics probably had in mind that contact with either of the two higher elements must raise the gradation of spirit. The infant, according to this theory, is an animal, but not yet a man; it has not the gift of reason[120]. To attain this higher stage there is need both of growth from within, and of association with reasonable beings without; in these ways reason may be developed in or about the seventh year[121]. In the whole of its growth the soul needs continually to be refreshed by the inbreathing of air, and to be sustained by exhalations from the blood[122]. Here we touch upon one[261] of those fundamental doctrines of the system, derived by Zeno from Heraclitus[123], which bind together the great and the little world. Just as the heavenly bodies are maintained by exhalations from the Ocean[124], so the soul is dependent upon the body for its daily food. Hence follows the important consequence that weakness and disease of the body react upon the soul; the philosopher must keep his body in health for the soul’s good, if for no other reason[125]. If the Stoics in discussing problems of ethics constantly maintain that the health of the soul is independent of that of the body, such statements are paradoxical and need qualification[126].

Sleep and death.

290. The mutual action of body and soul is most readily illustrated by sleep. The Stoics do not hold, as the Animists do, that the soul quits the body in sleep; nor do they agree with another popular view, that the soul then quits the extremities of the body and concentrates itself at the heart[127]. Sleep is due to a relaxation, contraction, or weakening of the spirit[128]; a lowering of its grade, which nevertheless is clearly no sign of ill health. In old age there is often an imperfection of the reason, and this is also seen in the sick, the tired, and the anaemic[129]. In death there is a[262] complete relaxation of tone in the breath that we can feel, that is, in such spirit as belongs to the body[130]; there follows the separation of soul from body.

The beyond.

291. We are thus brought to the critically important question of the existence of the soul after death. On this point we shall not expect to find that all Stoic teachers agree in their language. In Zeno himself we shall be sure to find that variety of suggestion which is accounted for by his eagerness to learn from all sources; and later writers will also differ according to their respective inclinations either to draw strictly logical conclusions from the Stoic physics, or to respect the common opinion of mankind and to draw from it conclusions which may be a support to morality[131]. These variations need not discourage us from the attempt to trace in general outline the common teaching of the school. We have already seen that the various parts of the Stoic system are not bound together by strictly logical processes; where two conclusions appear contradictory, and yet both recommend themselves to the judgment, the Stoics are not prepared to sacrifice either the one or the other, but always seek to lessen, if they cannot altogether remove, the difficulties which stand in the way of accepting both. On the other hand, we need not too readily admit the charge of insincerity, whether it is found in the candid admission of its temptations by Stoic teachers[132], or in the less sympathetic criticisms of ancient or modern exponents of the system[133].


The Stoic standpoint.

292. On certain points all Stoic teachers seem to be agreed; first that the soul is, as regards its substance, imperishable; secondly, that the individual soul cannot survive the general conflagration[134]; lastly, that it does not of necessity perish with the body[135]. The first two dogmas follow immediately from the fundamental principles of the Stoic physics, and point out that every soul will find its last home by being absorbed in the divine being. The third dogma leaves play for ethical principles; subject to the monistic principle of an ultimate reconciliation, there is room for some sharp distinction between the destiny of good and bad souls, such as stands out in the Persian doctrine of rewards and punishments after death. And so we find it generally held that the souls of the good survive till the conflagration, whilst those of the wicked have but a short separate existence, and those of the lower and non-rational animals perish with their bodies[136]. If this difference in duration will satisfy the moral sense, the nature of the further existence of the soul may be determined on physical principles.

The released soul.

293. In the living man the soul, as we have already seen reason to suppose, derives its cohesion (ἕξις) and shape from its association with the body. Separated from the body, it must assume a new shape, and what should that be but the perfect shape of a sphere[137]? Again, the soul being compounded of the elements of air and fire must by its own nature, when freed from the body, pierce through this murky atmosphere, and rise to a brighter region above, let us say to that sphere which is just below the moon[138]. Here then[264] souls dwell like the stars, finding like them their food in exhalations from the earth[139]. Here they take rank as daemons or heroes (of such the air is full), and as such are joined in the fulfilment of the purposes of divine providence[140]. Yet it must be admitted that this bright destiny, if substantiated by the laws of physics, is also subject to physical difficulties. Suppose for instance that a man is crushed by the fall of a heavy rock; his soul will not be able to escape in any direction, but will be at once squeezed out of existence[141]. To fancies of this kind, whether attractive or grotesque, we shall not be inclined to pay serious attention.


294. In this general theory hope is perhaps held out before the eyes of good souls, but there is little to terrify the wicked, even if it be supposed that their souls neither survive so long, nor soar so high, as those of the good[142]. As against it we are told by a Church Father that Zeno accepted the Persian doctrine of future rewards and punishments, and with it the primitive belief in an Inferno in its crudest form[143]. We must agree with the first English editor of the fragments of Zeno that ‘it is hardly credible that Zeno can have attached any philosophical importance to a theory stated in these terms[144]’; they can at the best only have occurred in[265] some narration in the style of the Platonic myths, intended to illustrate a principle but not to convey a literal truth[145]. For just as the whole Hellenistic world, including the Stoics, stood aloof from the Persian doctrine of a spirit of evil, so it firmly rejected the dogma of a hell. Lucretius makes it a principal argument in favour of the philosophy of Epicurus that it drives out of men’s hearts the fear of Tartarus[146]; but writers partly or wholly Stoic are not less emphatic. ‘Ignorance of philosophy,’ says Cicero, ‘has produced the belief in hell and its terrors[147].’ In the mouth of the representative of Stoicism he places the words ‘Where can we find any old woman so silly as to believe the old stories of the horrors of the world below?[148]’ ‘Those tales’ says Seneca ‘which make the world below terrible to us, are poetic fictions. There is no black darkness awaiting the dead, no prison-house, no lake of fire or river of forgetfulness, no judgment-seat, no renewal of the rule of tyrants[149].’

Purgatory of Virgil.

295. Of far more importance to us is the theory of purgatory familiar through the description in Virgil’s Aeneid:

‘In the beginning the earth and the sky, and the spaces of night,
Also the shining moon, and the sun Titanic and bright
Feed on an inward life, and, with all things mingled, a mind
Moves universal matter, with Nature’s frame is combined.
Thence man’s race, and the beast, and the feathered creature that flies, 5
All wild shapes that are hidden the gleaming waters beneath.
Each elemental seed has a fiery force from the skies,
Each its heavenly being, that no dull clay can disguise,
Bodies of earth ne’er deaden, nor limbs long destined to death.
Hence their fears and desires, their sorrows and joys; for their sight, 10
Blind with the gloom of a prison, discerns not the heavenly light.
Nor, when life at last leaves them, do all sad ills, that belong
Unto the sinful body, depart; still many survive
Lingering within them, alas! for it needs must be that the long
Growth should in wondrous fashion at full completion arrive. 15
So due vengeance racks them, for deeds of an earlier day
Suffering penance; and some to the winds hang viewless and thin,
Searched by the breezes; from others the deep infection of sin
Swirling water washes, or bright fire purges, away.
Each in his own sad ghost we endure; then, chastened aright, 20
Into Elysium pass. Few reach to the fields of delight
Till great time, when the cycles have run their courses on high,
Takes the inbred pollution, and leaves to us only the bright
Sense of the heaven’s own ether, and fire from the springs of the sky[150].’

Although we cannot accept Virgil as a scientific exponent of Stoic teaching, yet there is much reason to suppose that he is here setting forth a belief which met with very general acceptance in our school, and of which the principle is that the sufferings of the disembodied are not a punishment for past offences, but the necessary means for the purification of the soul from a taint due to its long contact with the body.

Probable Stoic origin.

296. The language in which Virgil first describes the creation and life of the universe closely resembles that of Stoicism; the phrases ‘elemental seed,’ ‘fiery force,’ ‘heavenly being’ might be used by any Stoic teacher. The conception of the body as a ‘prison-house,’ even though it does not express the most scientific aspect of Stoic physics, was nevertheless, as we have seen, familiar to Stoics of the later centuries. The ethical conception, again, of the doctrine of purgatory is exactly that of which the Stoics felt a need in order to reconcile the dualism of good and evil souls with the ultimate prevalence of the divine will. Again, we can have no difficulty in supposing that Virgil drew his material from Stoic sources, seeing that he was characteristically a learned poet, and reflects Stoic sentiment in many other passages of his works[151]. We have also more direct evidence. The Church[267] Father whom we have already quoted not only ascribes to the Stoics in another passage the doctrine of purgatory, but expressly quotes this passage from Virgil as an exposition of Stoic teaching. And here he is supported to some extent by Tertullian, who says that the Stoics held that the souls of the foolish after death receive instruction from the souls of the good[152]. Finally, we have the doctrine definitely accepted by Seneca[153].

Views of Greek Stoics.

297. We may now consider more particularly the views and feelings of individual Stoic teachers. It appears to us accordingly that Zeno left his followers room for considerable diversity of opinion, and quoted the Persian doctrine because of its suggestiveness rather than for its literal truth. Of Cleanthes we are told that he held that all souls survived till the conflagration, whilst Chrysippus believed this only of the souls of the wise[154]. Panaetius, although a great admirer of Plato, is nevertheless so strongly impressed by the scientific principle that ‘all which is born must die,’ that he is here again inclined to break away from Stoicism, and to suspend his judgment altogether as to the future existence of the soul[155]; the belief in a limited future existence was meaningless to a philosopher who disbelieved in the conflagration. Of the views of Posidonius we have the definite hint, that he taught that the ‘air is full of immortal souls[156]’;[268] and this is in such harmony with the devout temper of this teacher that we may readily believe that he enriched the somewhat bare speculations of his predecessors by the help of an Oriental imagination, and that he introduced into Stoicism not only the doctrine of daemons but also that of purgatory, holding that souls were both pre-existent and post-existent.

View of Seneca.

298. In the period of the Roman principate the question of the future existence of the soul acquires special prominence. Seneca is criticized on the ground that he affects at times a belief which he does not sincerely entertain, partly in order to make his teaching more popular, partly to console his friends in times of mourning. The facts stand otherwise. At no time does Seneca exceed the limits of the accepted Stoic creed; he bids his friends look forward to the period of purgation[157], the life of pure souls in the regions of the aether, and the final union with the divine being. It is after purgation that the soul by the refinement of the elements of which it is built forces its way to higher regions[158]; it finds a quiet and peaceful home in the clear bright aether[159]; it has cast off the burden of the flesh[160]; it is parted by no mountains or seas from other happy souls[161]; it daily enjoys free converse with the great ones of the past[162]; it gazes on the human world below, and on the sublime company of the stars in its own neighbourhood[163]. At a later epoch all blessed souls will be re-absorbed in the primal elements[164], suffering change but not[269] forfeiting their immortal nature[165]. The somewhat exuberant language of Seneca has frequently been adopted by Christian writers, to express a belief which is not necessarily identical[166]; but for the associations thus created Seneca must not be held responsible.

Personality cannot survive.

299. With the decay of interest in the Stoic physics there begins a tendency to overlook the intermediate stage of the soul’s life, and to dwell solely on its final absorption; whilst at the same time it is urged from the ethical standpoint that no possible opinion as to the soul’s future should disturb the calm of the virtuous mind. On one further, but important, point the Stoic teaching becomes clearer. In no case is the soul that survives death to be identified with the man that once lived. Cut off from all human relations, from the body and its organs, and from its own subordinate powers[167], it is no longer ‘you,’ but is something else that takes your place in the due order of the universe. In all this the Stoic doctrine remains formally unchanged; but its expression is now so chastened that it seems only to give a negative reply to the inherited hope, and the chief comfort it offers is that ‘death is the end of all troubles.’ This change of tone begins in Seneca himself; it is he who says to the mourner ‘your loved one has entered upon a great and never-ending rest[168]’; ‘death is release from all pain and its end[169]’; ‘death is not to be. I know all its meaning. As things were before I was born, so they will be after I am gone[170].’ ‘If we perish in death, nothing remains[171].’ In Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius this new tone rings out much more clearly; if we like so to speak, more unrelentingly. To the characteristic passages from[270] these writers which are quoted above[172] may be added the following, perhaps the most precise of all:

‘If souls survive death, how can the air hold them from all eternity? How, we reply, does earth hold the bodies of generation after generation committed to the grave? Just as on earth, after a certain term of survival, change and dissolution of substance makes room for other dead bodies, so too the souls transmuted into air, after a period of survival, change by processes of diffusion and of ignition, and are resumed into the seminal principle of the universe, and in this way make room for others to take up their habitation in their stead. Such is the natural answer, assuming the survival of souls[173].’

Such are the last words of Stoicism, not wholly satisfying either to knowledge or to aspiration, but assuredly based on a wide outlook and a keen discrimination.

Men and women.

300. The whole nature of man, as discussed up to this point, is common to every individual born into the world, with some exceptions dependent on age or temperament which have been explained incidentally. It remains to discuss shortly the important differences which result from sex, nationality, and location. There seems every reason to believe that the equality of men and women, though at the time seemingly paradoxical, was generally accepted by the earlier Stoics, and adopted as a practical principle in Stoic homes. The whole treatment of human nature by the Stoics applies equally to man and woman, and points to the conclusion that as moral agents they have the same capacities and the same responsibilities[174]. Seneca in writing to a great lady of philosophical sympathies states this as his firm conviction[175], and the lives of many Stoic wives and daughters (to whom we shall refer in a later chapter)[176] showed it to have a firm basis in fact. We need attach no great importance to those more distinctively masculine views which Seneca occasionally expresses, to the[271] effect that woman is hot-tempered, thoughtless, and lacking in self-control[177], or to the Peripatetic doctrine that man is born to rule, women to obey[178]; for these sentiments, however welcome to his individual correspondents, were not rooted in Stoic theory nor exemplified in the Roman society of his own days.

Class and race.

301. It follows with equal certainty from the early history of Stoicism, and in particular from the doctrine of the Cosmopolis, that differences of class and race were hardly perceived by its founders. For this there was further historical cause in the spread of Hellenistic civilisation, which was of an entirely catholic spirit and welcomed disciples from all nationalities[179]. The doctrine of Aristotle, that some nations are by nature fitted only for slavery, finds no echo in the Stoic world[180]. There we look in vain for any trace of that instinctive feeling of national difference, that sensitiveness to race and colour, which can easily be recognised in the early history of Greece and Rome, and which has become so acute in the development of modern world-politics. The Roman Stoics, as we shall see later, might individually be proud of advantages of birth, but they never associated this feeling with their philosophy. Here and there, however, we find signs of a scientific interest in the question of differences of national character, which are generally ascribed to the influences of climate. Seneca, for instance, remarks that the inhabitants of northern climates have characters as rude as their sky; hence they make good fighters, but poor rulers[181]. Yet when he contemplates the northern barbarians, his mind is mainly occupied by admiration; and, like other pro-Germans of the period, he foresees with prophetic[272] clearness a danger threatening the Roman empire. ‘Should the Germans once lay aside their fierce domestic quarrels, and add to their courage reason and discipline, Rome will indeed have cause to resume the virtues of its early history[182].’ The roots of true greatness of soul, then, lie deeper than in literary culture or philosophic insight. It is a part of the irony of history that Stoicism, which aimed above all things at being practical, should diagnose so correctly the growing weakness of the Roman world, and yet fail to suggest any remedy other than a reversion to an epoch in which philosophy was unknown.


[1] ‘rex noster est animus: hoc incolumi cetera manent in officio, parent, obtemperant; cum ille paullum vacillavit, simul dubitant. ubi vero impotens, cupidus, delicatus est, fit tyrannus; tunc eum excipiunt adfectus impotentes’ Sen. Ep. 114, 24.

[2] See L. Stein Psych. i p. 206.

[3] See above, § 68.

[4] ‘natura mundi omnes motus habet voluntarios conatusque et appetitiones, quas ὁρμάς Graeci vocant, et his consentaneas actiones sic adhibet ut nosmetipsi, qui animis movemur et sensibus’ Cic. N. D. ii 22, 58.

[5] τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν δι’ ὅλου τοῦ κόσμου διήκειν, ἧς μέρος μετέχοντας ἡμᾶς ἐμψυχοῦσθαι Hermias irris. gent. phil. 7 (Arnim i 495).

[6] ‘ipse autem homo ortus est ad mundum contemplandum et imitandum’ Cic. N. D. ii 14, 37.

[7] τὸν κόσμον περιέχειν τὸν Δία καθάπερ ἄνθρωπον ψυχήν Philod. piet. 15 (Arnim iii Diog. 33).

[8] ‘quem in hoc mundo locum deus obtinet, hunc in homine animus; quod est illic materia, id in nobis corpus est’ Sen. Ep. 65, 24.

[9] Philo rer. div. i 494 M (Stein Psych. i 207).

[10] See above, § 242.

[11] See below, § 274.

[12] See above, § 11.

[13] On the whole subject see Tylor, Anthropology, ch. xvi; Primitive Culture, chs. xi-xvii; Jevons, Introd. to the history of Religion, ch. v.

[14] See above, § 174.

[15] Nemes. nat. hom. ii 85 and 86 (Arnim i 518).

[16] ib. 99 (Arnim ii 790).

[17] Here we come into close touch with modern ways of thinking. The soul is the self as known subjectively and from within, as appealed to in the argument of Descartes ‘cogito, ergo sum.’ The body is the self as known objectively and from without, first in our neighbours who obstruct our efforts (‘officium quod corporis exstat, | officere atque obstare’ Lucr. R. N. i 337, 8), and then by analogy in ourselves. The Stoic theory then asserts that subjective and objective knowledge are ultimately the same, both being activities of the same Logos. See above, § 149.

[18] The distinction is most clearly made by Juvenal: ‘sensum a caelesti demissum traximus arce, | cuius egent prona et terram spectantia. mundi | principio indulsit communis conditor illis | tantum animas, nobis animum quoque, mutuus ut nos | adfectus petere auxilium et praestare iuberet’ Sat. xv 146-150.

[19] See above, § 206.

[20] See above, § 203.

[21] ‘Zenoni Stoico animus ignis videtur’ Cic. Tusc. disp. i 10, 19.

[22] ‘spiritum quippe animam esse Zenon quaerit hactenus; quo recedente a corpore moritur animal, hoc certe anima est. naturali porro spiritu recedente moritur animal; naturalis igitur spiritus anima est’ Chalc. in Tim. 220 (Arnim i 138).

[23] ‘probabilius enim videtur, tale quiddam esse animum, ut sit ex igni atque anima temperatum’ Cic. N. D. iii 14, 36; cf. Arnim ii 786. This view was accepted by Panaetius: ‘is animus ... ex inflammata anima constat, ut potissimum videri video Panaetio’ Tusc. disp. i 18, 42. The ‘fire’ and ‘air’ here referred to are not the ordinary elements: οὐ γὰρ πᾶν πῦρ οὐδὲ πᾶν πνεῦμα ταύτην ἔχει τὴν δύναμιν. μετά τινος οὖν ἔσται εἴδους ἰδίου καὶ λόγου καὶ δυνάμεως καί, ὡς αὐτοὶ λέγουσιν, τόνου Alex. Aphr. de anima p. 115, 6 (Arnim ii 785). See further Stein Psychologie i pp. 101 to 103.

[24] οἱ Στωϊκοὶ πνεῦμα νοερὸν θερμόν [τὴν ψυχήν] Aët. plac. iv 3, 3.

[25] ‘animum constat animal esse, cum ipse efficiat, ut simus animalia; et cum ab illo animalia hoc nomen traxerint’ Sen. Ep. 113, 2; ‘et animus meus animal est et ego animal sum; duo tamen non sumus. quare? quia animus mei pars est’ ib. 5.

[26] Tertullian deals with this point as against Valentinian heretics; de an. 21.

[27] ‘cum elementa sint quattuor, ignis aquae aeris terrae, potestates pares his sunt, fervida frigida arida atque umida; eadem animalium hominumque discrimina sunt’ Sen. Dial. iv 19, 1 and 2; ‘cuius [in homine] elementi portio praevalebit, inde mores erunt’ ib. 2.

[28] ‘languida ingenia et in somnum itura inertibus nectuntur elementis’ ib. i 5, 9.

[29] ‘iracundos fervida animi natura faciet; frigidi mixtura timidos facit’ ib. iv 19, 2.

[30] ‘quaecunque adtribuit condicio nascendi et corporis temperatura, haerebunt’ Ep. 11, 6.

[31] For a treatment of the subject on modern lines see Ribot, The emotions, chs. xii and xiii; and the works of Fouillée, Paulhan, and other French writers. For the earlier history see Summers on Sen. Ep. 11, 3, and Stein Psych. i p. 175.

[32] ψυχή ἐστι κατὰ τοὺς Στωϊκοὺς σῶμα λεπτομερὲς ἐξ ἑαυτοῦ κινούμενον κατὰ σπερματικοὺς λόγους Galen def. med. 29 (Arnim ii 780); ‘nosmetipsi qui animis movemur’ Cic. N. D. ii 22, 58; ‘humanus animus agilis est et pronus ad motus’ Sen. Dial. ix 2, 11.

[33] μία ἡ τῆς ψυχῆς δύναμις, ὡς τὴν αὐτήν πως ἔχουσαν ποτὲ μὲν διανοεῖσθαι, ποτὲ δὲ ὀργίζεσθαι [qu. ὀρέγεσθαι?] ποτὲ δ’ ἐπιθυμεῖν παρὰ μέρος Alex. Aph. de anima p. 118 (Arnim ii 823).

[34] ‘huiusmodi autem non tam partes animae habebuntur quam vires et efficaciae et operae’ Tert. de an. 14. They may also be called the soul’s qualities: οἱ ἀπὸ Χρυσίππου καὶ Ζήνωνος φιλόσοφοι τὰς μὲν δυνάμεις ὡς ἐν τῷ ὑποκειμένῳ ποιότητας συμβιβάζουσι, τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν ὡς οὐσίαν προϋποκειμένην ταῖς δυνάμεσι τιθέασι Stob. i 49, 33.

[35] See above, § 79; for other divisions Tert. de an. 14 (Arnim i 144), Cic. Off. i 28, 101, and generally Stein, Psych. i p. 123.

[36] On this translation see § 101, note 81.

[37] [ἀπὸ τοῦ ἡγεμονικοῦ] ταῦτα πάντα ἐπιτέταται διὰ τῶν οἰκείων ὀργάνων προσφερῶς ταῖς τοῦ πολύποδος πλεκτάναις Aët. plac. iv 4, 4.

[38] Arnim ii 838. Since many philosophers think the mind seated in the head, Chrysippus collects many arguments to the contrary; for instance that women say, when they don’t agree with a statement, ‘it won’t go down,’ pointing all the while to the heart, Galen plac. Hipp. et Plat. iii 5, p. 323 K (Arnim ii 892). Further that καρδία is derived from κράτησις, the heart being the seat of government ib. (Arnim ii 896). He could support his view by thousands of quotations from the poets. On the other hand we find the suggestion that the principate resides in our spherical heads, as in a universe (Aët. plac. iv 21, 4). This latter view may be due to Academic influence (Schmekel, p. 259).

[39] δυνάμεις μιᾶς οὐσίας ἐκ τῆς καρδίας ὁρμωμένης Galen plac. Hipp. et Plat. p. 51 K.

[40] τὸ λογιστικὸν μόριον τῆς ψυχῆς, ὃ καὶ ἰδίως ἡγεμονικὸν καλεῖται Alex. Aphr. de an. p. 98, 24 (Arnim ii 839). In this direction Epictetus defines the rational faculty as ‘that which contemplates both itself and all other things’ Disc. i 1, 4.

[41] τὸ ἐγὼ λέγομεν κατὰ τοῦτο [τὸ ἡγεμονικὸν] δεικνύντες Galen plac. Hipp. et Plat. ii 2 p. 215 K.

[42] ‘intellegendum est etiam, duabus quasi nos a natura indutos esse personis, quarum una communis est ex eo, quod omnes participes sumus rationis; altera autem, quae proprie singulis est tributa’ Cic. Off. i 30, 107.

[43] Arnim ii 823.

[44] To himself vii 64.

[45] ib. iv 12.

[46] ib. v 27.

[47] ib. iii 5, v 10, xii 1; so too Epictetus ‘God is within, and your daemon is within’ Disc. i 14, 14.

[48] See above, §§ 146-156.

[49] ἔργα δὲ ψυχῆς ὁρμᾶν, ἀφορμᾶν, ὀρέγεσθαι, ἐκκλίνειν, παρασκευάζεσθαι, ἐπιβάλλεσθαι, συγκατατίθεσθαι. τί ποτ’ οὖν ἐστι τὸ ἐν τούτοις τοῖς ἔργοις ῥυπαρὰν παρέχον αὐτὴν καὶ ἀκάθαρτον; οὐδὲν ἄλλο ἢ τὰ μοχθηρὰ κρίματα αὐτῆς Epict. Disc. iv 11, 6 and 7.

[50] ἡ τῆς ψυχῆς ἰσχὺς τόνος ἐστὶν ἱκανὸς ἐν τῷ κρίνειν καὶ πράττειν ἢ μή Stob. ii 7 5b 4; ‘quaerimus quomodo animus semper secundo cursu eat’ Sen. Dial. ix 2, 4; ‘quidam se domi contrahunt, dilatant foris ac extendunt; vitium est haec diversitas et signum vacillantis animi ac nondum habentis tenorem suum’ Ep. 20, 3.

[51] See above, § 96.

[52] ‘satis natura homini dedit roboris, si illo utamur; nolle in causa est, non posse praetenditur’ Sen. Ep. 116, 8.

[53] ‘animi motus eos putemus sanissimos validissimosque, qui nostro arbitrio ibunt, non suo ferentur’ Dial. iv 35, 2.

[54] ‘hanc stabilem animi sedem Graeci εὐθυμίαν vocant, ego tranquillitatem voco’ ib. ix 2, 3.

[55] Ep. 114, 24 (see above, § 263, note 1).

[56] ‘non est [mens] ex terreno et gravi concreta corpore, ex illo caelesti spiritu descendit’ Dial. xii 7, 7; ‘ratio nihil aliud est quam in corpus humanum pars divini spiritus mersa’ Ep. 66, 12.

[57] ‘animus, sed hic rectus bonus magnus ... quid aliud voces hunc quam deum in corpore humano hospitantem?’ ib. 31, 11.

[58] ‘sacer inter nos spiritus sedet, malorum bonorumque nostrorum observator [et] custos’ ib. 41, 2.

[59] ‘deum te igitur scito esse: si quidem deus est qui viget, qui sentit, qui meminit’ Cic. Rep. vi (Somn. Scip.) 24, 26.

[60] Physics, and in particular astronomy, is meant: ‘[animus] hoc habet argumentum divinitatis suae, quod illum divina delectant; nec ut alienis sed ut suis interest’ Sen. N. Q. i Prol. 12; cf. Horace Ep. i 12, 14-19.

[61] ‘When you are in social intercourse, when you are exercising yourself, when you are engaged in discussion, know you not that you are nourishing a god, that you are exercising a god? Wretch, you are carrying about a god with you, and you know it not.’ Epict. Disc. ii 8, 12.

[62] ‘dicere porro, oculos nullam rem cernere posse, | sed per eos animum ut foribus spectare reclusis, | difficile est’ Lucr. N. D. iii 360-362; cf. Arnim ii 862. See also Cic. N. D. iii 4, 9, and Mayor’s valuable note. Modern psychologists side with the Stoics.

[63] See above, § 146, note 18.

[64] τὰ μὲν πάθη ἐν τοῖς πεπονθόσι τόποις, τὰς δὲ αἰσθήσεις ἐν τῷ ἡγεμονικῷ Aët. plac. iv 23, 1.

[65] See above, § 146, note 18.

[66] αἰσθητικῇ γὰρ φαντασίᾳ συγκατάθεσίς ἐστιν ἡ αἴσθησις Porph. de anima (Arnim ii 74); ‘dicunt Stoici sensus ipsos adsensus esse’ Cic. Ac. ii 33, 108.

[67] αἴσθησις δὲ λέγεται ... καὶ ἡ περὶ τὰ αἰσθητήρια κατασκευή, καθ’ ἥν τινες πηροὶ γίνονται Diog. L. vii 52.

[68] ‘Stoici causas esse videndi dicunt radiorum ex oculis in ea, quae videri queunt, emissionem aerisque simul intentionem’ Gell. N. A. v 16, 2; ‘Stoici videndi causam in nativi spiritus intentione constituunt, cuius effigiem coni similem volunt’ Chalc. Tim. 237 (Arnim ii 863).

[69] Arnim ii 869.

[70] Ποσειδώνιος γοῦν αὐτὴν (sc. τὴν ὄψιν) σύμφυσιν ὀνομάζει Aët. plac. iv 13, 3.

[71] Diog. L. vii 158.

[72] Arnim ii 836.

[73] ‘Cleanthes [ambulationem] ait spiritum esse a principali usque in pedes permissum’ Sen. Ep. 113, 23.

[74] ‘vocem Stoici corpus esse contendunt, eamque esse dicunt ictum aera’ Gellius N. A. v 15, 6.

[75] ‘quid enim est vox nisi intentio aeris, ut audiatur, linguae formata percussu?’ Sen. N. Q. ii 6, 3.

[76] ὁ λόγος ἐκεῖθεν ἐκπέμπεται, ὅθεν καὶ ἡ φωνή. ἡ δὲ φωνὴ οὐκ ἐκ τῶν κατὰ τὴν κεφαλὴν τόπων ἐκπέμπεται, ἀλλὰ φανερῶς ἐκ κάτωθεν μᾶλλον Galen. plac. Hipp. et Plat. ii 5 p. 205 Müller.

[77] See above, § 161.

[78] See above, § 178.

[79] Lucr. R. N. iv 1214-1220.

[80] E. Haeckel, Welträthsel (Volksausg.) p. 30. The italics are those of the author of this book.

[81] ib. Anmerkungen, p. 158.

[82] Though Lucretius laughs at the idea of attributing laughter and tears to the elements (‘hac ratione tibi pereunt primordia rerum: | fiet, uti risu tremulo concussa cachinnent, | et lacrumis salsis umectent ora genasque’ R. N. i 917-919), yet he attributes to them the essential power of free-will: ‘si ... nec declinando faciunt primordia motus | principium quoddam, quod fati foedera rumpat, | unde est haec, inquam, fatis avolsa voluntas?’ R. N. ii 253-257.

[83] οἱ Στωϊκοὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ σώματος ὅλου καὶ τῆς ψυχῆς φέρεσθαι τὰ σπέρματα Aët. plac. v. 11, 3; ‘When you consort with your wife ... you are carrying about a god with you’ Epict. Disc. ii 8, 12.

[84] μέρη δὲ ψυχῆς λέγουσιν ... τοὺς ἐν ἡμῖν σπερματικοὺς λόγους Diog. L. vii 157.

[85] τῶν δὲ λοιπῶν [μερῶν τῆς ψυχῆς] τὸ μὲν λέγεται σπέρμα, ὅπερ καὶ αὐτὸ πνεῦμά ἐστι διατεῖνον ἀπὸ τοῦ ἡγεμονικοῦ μέχρι τῶν παραστατῶν Aët. plac. iv 21, 4; cf. Diog. L. vii 159.

[86] τὸ δὲ σπέρμα φησὶν ὁ Ζήνων εἶναι ψυχῆς μέρος καὶ ἀπόσπασμα καὶ τοῦ σπέρματος τοῦ τῶν προγόνων κέρασμα καὶ μῖγμα τῶν τῆς ψυχῆς μερῶν συνεληλυθός Euseb. pr. ev. xv 20, 1 (Arnim i 128). That the separation or ‘tearing away’ (ἀπόσπασμα) is not complete or absolute seems to follow from the general principles of Stoic physics: see above § 262.

[87] ‘in semine omnis futuri hominis ratio comprehensa est’ Sen. N. Q. iii 29, 3.

[88] ‘utrum ex patris tantummodo semine partus nascatur, ut ... Stoici scripserunt’ Censor. di. nat. 5; cf. Diog. L. vii 159, Aët. plac. v 5, 2.

[89] The evidence for this is mainly indirect. [ὁ δὲ Κλεάνθης] οὐ μόνον, φησίν, ὅμοιοι τοῖς γονεῦσι γινόμεθα κατὰ τὸ σῶμα ἀλλὰ κατὰ τὴν ψυχήν Nemes. nat. hom. ii 85 and 86 (Arnim i 518); ‘quod declaret eorum similitudo, qui procreentur; quae etiam in ingeniis, non solum in corporibus appareat’ Cic. Tusc. disp. i 32, 79.

[90] προΐεσθαι δὲ καὶ τὴν γυναῖκα σπέρμα· κἂν μὲν ἐπικρατήσῃ τὸ τῆς γυναικός, ὅμοιον εἶναι τὸ γεννώμενον τῇ μητρί, ἐὰν δὲ τὸ τοῦ ἀνδρός, τῷ πατρί Aët. plac. v 11, 4.

[91] See above, § 63.

[92] ‘inrationalis pars animi duas habet partes, alteram animosam ambitiosam impotentem positam in adfectionibus, alteram humilem languidam voluptatibus deditam’ Sen. Ep. 92, 8.

[93] ‘appetitio (eam enim esse volumus ὁρμήν), qua ad agendum impellimur, et id appetimus quod est visum’ Cic. Ac. ii 8, 24.

[94] This is termed by Panaetius ὄρεξις simply; the term ἐπιβολή is also used: see § 272, note 49.

[95] See above, § 146.

[96] Zeller (Stoics, p. 243) states that man has irrational as well as rational impulses. This seems to be incorrectly expressed.

[97] φαντασία ὁρμητικὴ τοῦ καθήκοντος Stob. ii 7, 9.

[98] ‘omne rationale animal nihil agit, nisi primum specie alicuius rei inritatum est, deinde impetum cepit, deinde adsensio confirmavit hunc impetum. quid sit adsensio dicam. oportet me ambulare: tunc demum ambulo, cum hoc mihi dixi et adprobavi hanc opinionem meam’ Sen. Ep. 113, 18.

[99] δοκεῖ δ’ αὐτοῖς τὰ πάθη κρίσεις εἶναι, καθά φησι Χρύσιππος Diog. L. vii III; ‘omnes perturbationes iudicio censent fieri et opinione’ Cic. Tusc. disp. iv 7, 14; ἀσθενῆ δὲ λέγουσι συγκατάθεσιν, ὅταν μηδέπω πεπεικότες ὦμεν ἡμᾶς αὐτούς Galen de peccatis ii 1 p. 59 K (Arnim iii 172); ἔστι δ’ αὐτὸ τὸ πάθος κατὰ Ζήνωνα ... ὁρμὴ πλεονάζουσα Diog. L. vii 110.

[100] ‘in corpore nostro ossa nervique et articuli, firmamenta totius et vitalia, minime speciosa visu, prius ordinantur; deinde haec, ex quibus omnis in faciem adspectumque decor est. post haec omnia qui maxime oculos rapit, color, ultimus perfecto iam corpore adfunditur’ Sen. Dial. iv 1, 2.

[101] See above, § 268.

[102] ἡ ψυχὴ πνεῦμά ἐστι σύμφυτον ἡμῖν Galen plac. Hipp. et Plat. iii 1 p. 251 M, quoting Chrysippus (Arnim ii 885).

[103] Schmekel traces the introduction of this doctrine to Posidonius, and finds in it the starting-point of the later mysticism, Philos. d. mittl. Stoa, pp. 400 sqq. See also L. Stein, Psych. i 194.

[104] ‘nos corpus tam putre sortiti’ Sen. Ep. 120, 17; ‘inutilis caro et fluida, receptandis tantum cibis habilis, ut ait Posidonius’ ib. 92, 10.

[105] ‘haec quae vides ossa circumiecta nobis, nervos et obductam cutem, voltumque et ministras manus, et cetera quibus involuti sumus, vincula animorum tenebraeque sunt. obruitur his animus, effocatur, inficitur, arcetur a veris et suis in falsa coniectus. omne illi cum hac carne grave certamen est’ Sen. Dial. vi 24, 5; ‘corpusculum hoc, custodia et vinculum animi’ ib. xii 11, 7.

[106] ‘What am I? a poor miserable man with my wretched bit of flesh. Through this kinship with the flesh, some of us become like wolves’ Epict. Disc. i 3, 5 and 7.

[107] ‘corpus hoc animi pondus et poena est’ Sen. Ep. 65, 16; ‘quantum per moras membrorum et hanc circumfusam gravem sarcinam licet’ Dial. xii 11, 6; ‘corporis velut oneris necessarii non amator sed procurator est’ Ep. 92, 33.

[108] ‘Epicurus placed the good in the husk’ Epict. Disc. i 23, 1.

[109] ‘You ought to possess your whole body as a poor ass loaded. When the body is an ass, all the other things are bits belonging to the ass, pack-saddles, shoes, barley, fodder’ ib. iv 1, 79 and 80.

[110] In particular to the practice of self-mutilation, with which Seneca is disgusted: ‘cottidie comminiscimur, per quae virilitati fiat iniuria ... alius genitalia excidit’ Sen. N. Q. vii 31, 3.

[111] ‘nec domum esse hoc corpus, sed hospitium et quidem breve hospitium’ Sen. Ep. 120, 14; ‘hoc [corpus] natura ut quandam vestem animo circumdedit’ ib. 92, 13.

[112] ‘inter me teque conveniet corpus in honorem animi coli’ ib. 92, 1. In the same spirit Seneca writes in condemnation of the gladiatorial conflicts ‘homo sacra res homini’ ib. 95, 33.

[113] ‘[natura] voltus nostros erexit ad caelum’ ib. 94, 56; ‘[natura] ... ut ab ortu sidera in occasum labentia prosequi posset, sublime fecit [homini] caput et collo flexili imposuit’ Dial. viii 5, 4. See also Mayor on Juv. Sat. xv 147.

[114] Cic. N. D. ii 54 to 58.

[115] ‘quae partes corporis, ad naturae necessitatem datae, adspectum essent deformem habiturae atque turpem, eas [natura] contexit atque abdidit’ Off. i 35, 127.

[116] In the Epicurean system atoms of soul are dispersed amongst atoms of body, there being a mixture of the two, which however does not go beyond juxtaposition; in the Stoic system soul permeates body. The Stoic explanation is frequently referred to by opponents as a reductio ad absurdum: τῷ λέγοντι τὴν ψυχὴν σῶμα ἕπεται τὸ σῶμα διὰ σώματος χωρεῖν Alex. Aphr. Arist. Top. ii 93 (Arnim ii 798). The relation of the principate to the man as a whole is also called σύστασις (constitutio); ‘constitutio est principale animi quodam modo se habens erga corpus’ Sen. Ep. 121, 10.

[117] οἱ Στωϊκοὶ μέρος αὐτὸ [τὸ ἔμβρυον] τῆς γαστρός, οὐ ζῷον Aët. plac. v 14, 2; τὸ βρέφος ἐν τῇ γαστρὶ φύσει τρέφεσθαι [Χρύσιππος] νομίζει καθάπερ φυτόν Plut. Sto. rep. 41, 1.

[118] Stein, Psych. i p. 115.

[119] ὅταν δὲ τεχθῇ, ψυχούμενον ὑπὸ τοῦ ἀέρος τὸ πνεῦμα μεταβάλλειν καὶ γίνεσθαι ζῷον Plut. as above.

[120] ‘infans nondum rationalis [est]’ Sen. Ep. 121, 14; ‘tu me expertem rationis genuisti, onus alienum’ Ben. iii 31, 2.

[121] See above, § 153, note 66.

[122] διασῴζεσθαι λέγουσιν αὐτὴν [sc. τὴν ψυχὴν] ἔκ τε τῆς ἀναθυμιάσεως τοῦ αἵματος καὶ τοῦ κατὰ τὴν εἰσπνοὴν ἑλκομένου [ἀέρος] Galen comm. Hipp. 6 (Arnim ii 782); τρέφεσθαι ἐξ αἵματος τὴν ψυχήν, οὐσίαν δ’ αὐτῆς ὑπάρχειν τὸ πνεῦμα plac. Hipp. et Plat. ii 8 (Arnim i 140); ‘poor soul itself mere exhalation of the blood’ M. Aurel. To himself v 33.

[123] Ζήνων τὴν ψυχὴν λέγει αἰσθητικὴν ἀναθυμίασιν, καθάπερ Ἡράκλειτος· ... ‘καὶ ψυχαὶ δὲ ἀπὸ τῶν ὑγρῶν ἀναθυμιῶνται.’ ἀναθυμίασιν μὲν οὖν ὁμοίως τῷ Ἡρακλείτῳ ἀποφαίνει Ζήνων Ar. Did. fr. 39, 2 and 3 (Diels); the reference to Heraclitus is not necessarily an exact quotation by Zeno, see Bywater’s critical note on fr. 42; on the other side Diels’ note on fr. 12. L. Stein is of opinion that the Stoics missed the meaning of Heraclitus whilst accepting his terminology; see Psych. i, note 182.

[124] See above, § 200.

[125] See § 316, note 100.

[126] καὶ τὴν ψυχὴν [οἱ Στωϊκοὶ] ἔφασαν μηδὲν ὑπὸ τοῦ σώματος ἢ ὠφελεῖσθαι ἢ βλάπτεσθαι Theod. Gr. aff. cur. 11; see generally the discussion by Stein, Psych. i pp. 139, 140.

[127] Plut. fr. (de an.) 6, 3.

[128] οἱ Στωϊκοὶ τὸν μὲν ὕπνον γίνεσθαι ἀνέσει τοῦ αἰσθητικοῦ πνεύματος Aët. plac. v 23, 4, cf. Plut. Qu. conv. IV ii 4, 6; ‘contrahi autem animum Zeno et quasi labi putat atque concidere, et id ipsum esse dormire’ Cic. Div. ii 58, 119. See also above, § 177.

[129] ‘senes difficiles et queruli sunt, ut aegri et convalescentes, et quorum aut lassitudine aut detractione sanguinis exhaustus est calor’ Sen. Dial. iv 19, 4.

[130] ὅταν δὲ παντελὴς γένηται ἡ ἄνεσις τοῦ αἰσθητικοῦ πνεύματος, τότε γίγνεσθαι θάνατον Aët. plac. v 23, 4.

[131] ‘cum animarum aeternitatem disserimus, non leve momentum apud nos habet consensus hominum aut timentium inferos aut colentium’ Sen. Ep. 117, 6.

[132] ‘iuvabat de aeternitate animarum quaerere, immo mehercules credere. credebam enim me facile opinionibus magnorum virorum rem gratissimam promittentium magis quam probantium’ Sen. Ep. 102, 2; cf. Cic. Tusc. disp. i 11, 24.

[133] So especially L. Stein: ‘um nun ihre Philosophie populär und mundgerecht zu machen, liessen sich die Stoiker zuweilen zu Äusserungen herbei, die dazu angethan waren, ihr ganzes philosophisches System umzustossen’ Psych. i 149. Further their Scottish critic: ‘thus did the later Stoicism try to meet the claims of the human heart, which the earlier Stoicism had to a large extent ignored’ W. L. Davidson, The Stoic creed, p. 98; again ‘die Lehre von der Fortdauer der Seele ... war nur für die grosse Menge berechnet’ H. A. Winckler, Stoicismus, p. 50. Zeller is much more judicial, Stoics, pp. 217-222.

[134] ἔνιοι δὲ τὴν μὲν τοῦ ὅλου [ψυχὴν] ἀΐδιον, τὰς δὲ λοιπὰς συμμίγνυσθαι ἐπὶ τελεύτῃ εἰς ἐκείνην Ar. Did. fr. 39, 5.

[135] τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν γενητήν τε καὶ φθαρτὴν λέγουσιν· οὐκ εὐθὺς δὲ τοῦ σώματος ἀπαλλαγεῖσαν φθείρεσθαι, ἀλλ’ ἐπιμένειν τινὰς χρόνους καθ’ ἑαυτήν ib. 6; ‘Stoici ... diu mansuros aiunt animos, semper negant’ Cic. Tusc. disp. i 31, 77.

[136] τὴν μὲν τῶν σπουδαίων [ψυχὴν διαμένειν] μέχρι τῆς εἰς πῦρ ἀναλύσεως τῶν πάντων, τὴν δὲ τῶν ἀφρόνων πρὸς ποσούς τινας χρόνους· ... τὰς δὲ τῶν ἀφρόνων καὶ ἀλόγων ζῷων ψυχὰς συναπόλλυσθαι τοῖς σώμασι Ar. Did. fr. 39, 6 and 7.

[137] Arnim ii 815.

[138] [αἱ ψυχαὶ] λεπτομερεῖς οὖσαι καὶ οὐχ ἧττον πυρώδεις ἢ πνευματώδεις εἰς τοὺς ἄνω μᾶλλον τόπους κουφοφοροῦσι ... τὸν ὑπὸ σελήνην οἰκοῦσι τόπον Sext. math. ix 71 to 73 (Arnim ii 812); Ar. Did. fr. 39, 4; ‘si [animae] permanent et conservant habitum suum, ... necesse est ferantur ad caelum et ab his perrumpatur et dividatur crassus hic et concretus aer; calidior enim est vel potius ardentior animus, quam est hic aer’ Cic. Tusc. disp. i 18, 42; ‘itaque sublimantur animae sapientes ... apud Stoicos sub lunam’ Tert. de an. 54 (Arnim ii 814).

[139] τροφῇ τε χρῶνται οἰκείᾳ τῇ ἀπὸ τῆς ἀναθυμιάσει ὡς καὶ τὰ λοιπὰ ἄστρα Sext. math. ix 73; ‘fortium animas existimant in modum siderum vagari in aere’ Comm. in Lucan. ix 6 (Arnim ii 817).

[140] εἰ οὖν διαμένουσιν αἱ ψυχαί, δαίμοσιν αἱ αὐταὶ γίγνονται Sext. as in note 138; φασὶ δὲ εἶναι καί τινας δαίμονας καὶ ἤρωας, τὰς ὑπολελειμμένας τῶν σπουδαίων ψυχάς Diog. L. vii 151; ‘plenus [est] aer immortalium animorum’ Cic. Div. i 30, 64, quoting from Posidonius.

[141] ‘[Stoici] existimant animam hominis magno pondere extriti permanere non posse et statim spargi’ Sen. Ep. 57, 7; Seneca himself rejects this opinion.

[142] Κλεάνθης μὲν οὖν πάσας [τὰς ψυχὰς] ἐπιδιαμένειν μέχρι τῆς ἐκπυρώσεως, Χρύσιππος δὲ τὰς τῶν σοφῶν μόνον Diog. L. vii 157.

[143] ‘esse inferos Zenon docuit et sedes piorum ab impiis esse discretas; et illos quidem quietas ac delectabiles incolere regiones, hos vero luere poenas in tenebrosis locis atque in caeni voraginibus horrendis’ Lactant. Div. inst. vii 7, 13 (Arnim i 147); ‘reliquas animas ad inferos deiciunt’ Tert. de an. 54. Cf. Cic. fr. 240, 6.

[144] Pearson, Fragments, p. 146.

[145] So Hirzel, Untersuchungen ii p. 29 note.

[146] ‘et metus ille foras praeceps Acheruntis agendus, | funditus humanam qui vitam turbat ab imo, | omnia suffuscans mortis nigrore, neque ullam | esse voluptatem liquidam puramque relinquit’ R. N. iii 37-40.

[147] Cic. Tusc. disp. i 16, 36.

[148] N. D. ii 2, 5.

[149] ‘cogita illa, quae nobis inferos faciunt terribiles, fabulam esse; nullas imminere mortuis tenebras nec carcerem nec flumina igne flagrantia nec oblivionis amnem nec tribunalia ... [nec] ullos iterum tyrannos. luserunt ista poetae et vanis nos agitavere terroribus’ Sen. Dial. vi 19, 4. Here we have the opposite extreme to the statement in note 131.

[150] Virgil Aen. vi 724-747 (transl. by Lord Bowen). For the corresponding description of Paradise, see ib. 638-644. The substance of this discussion is drawn from Hirzel’s full note in his Untersuchungen ii pp. 25-31.

[151] For instance Georg. iv 221 sqq. See also below, §§ 434, 435.

[152] ‘impias vero [animas Stoici dicunt] ... habere aliquid imbecillitatis ex contagione carnis, cuius desideriis ac libidinibus addictae ineluibilem quendam fucum trahant labemque terrenam, quae cum temporis diuturnitate penitus inhaeserit, eius naturae reddi animas, ut ... cruciabiles fiant per corporis maculam, quae peccatis inusta sensum doloris attribuit. quam sententiam poeta sic explicavit—“quin et supremo etc.”’ Lact. Div. inst. vii 20, 9 and 10 (Arnim ii 813); ‘[Stoicos] miror, quod † imprudentes animas circa terram prosternant, cum illas a sapientibus multo superioribus erudiri adfirment’ Tert. de an. 54 (Arnim i 147, reading ‘prudentes’ on his own conjecture). On the other hand Augustine (Civ. De. xxi 13) ascribes the doctrine to ‘Platonici quidam’ and Comm. Luc. ix 9 (p. 291 Us.) to Pythagoras. See Schmekel, p. 105.

[153] ‘facillimum ad superos iter est animis cito ab humana conversatione dimissis. facilius quicquid est illud obsoleti inlitique eluunt’ Sen. Dial. vi 23, 1; ‘[filius tuus] paulum supra nos commoratus, dum expurgatur et inhaerentia vitia situmque omnem mortalis aevi excutit’ ib. 25, 1.

[154] Diog. L. vii 157.

[155] Cic. Tusc. disp. i 32, 79.

[156] See above, §§ 254, 293; for the teaching of Posidonius as to the pre-existence of the soul, see Schmekel, p. 250.

[157] See above, § 296.

[158] ‘animus beneficio subtilitatis suae erumpit’ Sen. Ep. 57, 8.

[159] ‘ibi illum aeterna requies manet e confusis crassisque pura et liquida visentem’ Dial. vi 24, 5.

[160] ‘emissis [animis] meliora restant onere detracto’ Ep. 24, 18. So in the Burial Service ‘the souls of the faithful, after they are delivered from the burden of the flesh, are in joy and felicity.’

[161] ‘non illos interfusa maria discludunt nec altitudo montium; tramites omnium plani’ Dial. vi 25, 3.

[162] ‘ad excelsa sublatus inter felices currit animas, Scipiones Catonesque, interque contemptores vitae et mortis beneficio liberos’ ib. 1.

[163] ‘rerum naturae spectaculo fruitur et humana omnia ex superiore loco despicit, divina vero propius intuetur’ ib. xi 9, 3.

[164] ‘nos quoque, felices animae atque aeterna sortitae, parva ruinae ingentis accessio, in antiqua elementa vertemur’ ib. vi 26, 7.

[165] ‘[animus], si superstes est corpori, nullo genere [perire potest], quoniam nulla immortalitas cum exceptione est’ Ep. 57, 9.

[166] See Winckler, Der Stoicismus eine Wurzel des Christenthums, p. 52.

[167] ‘haec sunt ignorantis, cum de aeternitate animorum dicatur, de mente dici, non de partibus iis, in quibus aegritudines irae libidinesque versentur’ Cic. Tusc. disp. i 33, 80.

[168] ‘excepit illum magna et aeterna pax’ Sen. Dial. vi 19, 6.

[169] ‘mors dolorum omnium exsolutio est et finis’ ib. 19, 5.

[170] ‘mors est non esse. id quale sit, iam scio. hoc erit post me, quod ante me fuit’ Ep. 54, 4.

[171] ‘mors nos aut consumit aut exuit; ... consumptis nihil restat’ ib. 24, 18.

[172] See above, §§ 140 and 141.

[173] M. Aurel. To himself iv 21.

[174] See below, § 306. Cleanthes wrote a book to show that ‘virtue is the same in men and women’; see Diog. L. vii 103.

[175] ‘quis dixit naturam maligne cum muliebribus ingeniis egisse, et virtutem illarum in artum retraxisse? par illis, mihi crede, vigor, par ad honesta, libeat, facultas est; dolorem laboremque ex aequo, si consuevere, patiuntur’ Sen. Dial. vi 16, 1.

[176] See below, §§ 431, 439, 444, 446.

[177] ‘muliebre est furere in ira’ Sen. Clem. i 5, 5; ‘[mulier] aeque imprudens [atque] animal est, et nisi scientia accessit et multa eruditio, ferum, cupiditatum incontinens’ Dial. ii 14, 1.

[178] ‘utraque turba [i.e. sexus] ad vitae societatem tantundem [confert], sed altera pars ad obsequendum, altera imperio nata [est]’ ib. 1, 1.

[179] See below, § 303.

[180] See below, § 309.

[181] ‘fere itaque imperia penes eos fuere populos, qui mitiore caelo utuntur. in frigora septentrionemque vergentibus immansueta ingenia sunt’ Sen. Dial. iv 15, 5. So too Lucan: ‘omnis in Arctois populus quicunque pruinis | nascitur, indomitus bellis et mortis amator’ Phars. viii 363-6.

[182] ‘agedum illis corporibus illis animis luxum opes ignorantibus da rationem, da disciplinam: ut nihil amplius dicam, necesse erit certe nobis mores Romanos repetere’ Sen. Dial. iii II, 4.



The Right Law.

302. The department of Ethics contains two divisions: ethics (in the stricter sense) which is concerned with the action of the individual; and politics, which has to do with the order of the State. It has been maintained that in Stoicism the latter is altogether subordinated, and that the central aim of this philosophy is to erect a shelter for the individual[1]. The truth of this view is more than doubtful. Stoic ethics are not based on the needs of the individual, but on the demands of the supreme Law. ‘If there is a universe, then there is a universal law, bidding us do this and refrain from that.’ ‘If there are gods, there is virtue[2].’ We have already noticed that Zeno’s earliest work was ‘on the State[3],’ and that it is an attempt to show how a state can be ordered by wise laws. The whole theory of the Logos leads up to the same point. The same eternal Wisdom through which the primal stuff took shape is, in another function, the Right Rule (ὀρθὸς λόγος, vera ratio) which commands and forbids[4]. Right Rule and Common Law (κοινὸς νόμος, lex communis) are terms of identical meaning, by which a standard of supreme authority is set up[5]; State law and[274] conventional morality, though always of narrower range, and often of inferior purity, are yet a reflection of universal Law. The moral law must therefore first be studied in its bearings on man as a political and social animal.

The Cosmopolis.

303. The root-principle of the Stoic State is that it is world-wide, a cosmopolis. This title arose from the practice, attributed to Socrates and Diogenes (as well as others), of replying to the current question ‘Of what city are you?’ by the answer ‘Of the universe[6].’ We must therefore regard ourselves as members not of a clan or city, but of a world-wide society[7]. In this society all distinctions of race, caste and class are to be subordinated to the sense of kinship and brotherhood[8]. This principle is equally opposed to the nationalist prejudices which rank Hellene above barbarian, to philosophical theories (such as that of Aristotle) which distinguish intelligent peoples fitted by nature to rule and others only fitted to obey[9], and to ideal states (such as that of Plato) in which a ruling class is to be developed by artifice and schooling. Only the brute animals are excluded from this community, for they are not possessed of reason; they have therefore no rights, but exist for the service of men[10]. All human beings are capable of attaining to virtue, and as such are natural-born citizens of the Cosmopolis[11]. Loyalty to this state, however, in no wise hinders a due loyalty to existing states which may be regarded as partial[275] realizations of it. Socrates submitted to the laws of Athens even when they bade him die; Zeno and Cleanthes declined the citizenship of that famous city, lest they should be thought to hold cheap the places of their birth[12]; and amongst the Romans Seneca frequently insists that every man is born into two communities, the Cosmopolis and his native city[13].

The law of nature.

304. The world-state is not held together either by force or by state-craft, but by goodwill. We must be able say ‘Love is god there, and is a helpmate to make the city secure[14].’ This feeling of love and friendship grows up naturally between wise men, because they partake in the reason of the universe; so that we may equally well say that the bond of the state is the Logos (ratio atque oratio)[15]. Since reason and the universal law exist in the community from the beginning, law does not need to be created; it exists of itself, and by natural growth (φύσει)[16]. The writing down of laws is only a stage in their development[17].

Zeno’s revolutionary views.

305. The theory of the world-state, as first sketched by Zeno, found no place for any of the cherished institutions of the Athens in which it was preached. In the heavenly city must be neither temples nor images[18]; so far the aims of the Persian invader are to be carried out. The reason given is far from flattering to the artistic pride of the[276] Athenians, for they are told that their magnificent buildings and statues of world-wide renown are only the work of common builders and workmen[19]. Nor must there be law-courts[20] or gymnasia. The practice of hearing both sides in a law-court is unreasonable, because if the plaintiff has proved his case it is useless to hear the defendant, and if he has not proved it, it is superfluous[21]. The training of the youth in grammar, music, and gymnastic is worthless[22], for the true education is in virtue. Coined money, as in modern communistic Utopias, should not be required either for commerce or for travel[23].

Women to be in common.

306. With regard to the position of women Zeno, agreeing to some extent with Plato, asserted the startling doctrine that ‘women should be in common, and men should mate with them as they pleased[24].’ That Zeno was suggesting, even for an imaginary state, any sort of loose living, need not for a moment be supposed; his continence was notable[25]; he expressly approves of marriage[26]; and the members of his school were honourably known by their aversion to adultery[27]. But Zeno could not base his theory of the relation of the sexes merely upon established practice. We may assume that he observed that in the world of animals and of birds mating was free[28], whereas in human society it was encumbered by national prejudices, class privilege, and personal jealousy;[277] and in particular that woman was regarded as a chattel, contrary to the fundamental principle of his state[29]. By his doctrine of ‘free mating’ he aimed at the root of these evils. The gradual abolition at Rome of the restrictions on ‘connubium’ illustrates the application of his principle, just as the prohibition of ‘miscegenation’ in modern America illustrates its denial. Zeno may well have perceived how deeply the potentiality of marriage affects all social relations, and it is probable that the progress of Stoicism did much to break down the racial barriers that existed in Zeno’s time, but which had almost completely disappeared five centuries later throughout the civilized world. Another application of his doctrine is found in the life of Cato of Utica[30]. But its general meaning is clear: marriage exists not by nature, but by institution (θέσει); its law is human and mutable, but nevertheless within proper limits is one that may not be transgressed. By the side of the text of Zeno we still have the authorized comment of Epictetus[31].

Incest no abomination.

307. The Stoics did not shrink from insisting upon the abstract principle of the community of women even in an extreme case in which their doctrine encountered a violent prejudice. No natural law, they maintained, prohibits marriage relationship between near relatives[32]. The tale of Oedipus and Jocasta, which is so prominent a theme in the great Athenian tragedies, appears to Zeno to be a matter about which too much ado has been made[33]. For suppose the[278] case that all the world were destroyed by flood except one man and his daughter; would it not be better that he should beget children by her, and that the whole human race should not perish[34]? In this reference to the traditional flood we may readily trace one reason why the Stoics insisted on their principle. For at the beginning of human history we are compelled to postulate an Adam and an Eve, a human pair related in their birth and at the same time united as parents of the race[35]. Go back to the beginnings of the universe; there too we must postulate the same combination of relationships, and so only can we understand the poets when they speak of Hera as ‘wife and sister of Zeus[36].’

Burial a convention.

308. Perhaps even more shocking to Hellenic feeling was Zeno’s indifference to the treatment of the dead, Burial was to him no sacred duty to the departed one; it was equally right to throw the body to the fire, as the Indians, or to the vultures, as the Persians[37]. Nor is there any need to condemn those nations amongst which the dead are eaten by their own relatives[38], for all these things are matters not of principle but of convenience, and to eat human flesh may still be desirable if circumstances require it[39], as for instance in shipwreck, or if a limb is amputated[40]. The problem of the disposal of the dead became a favourite subject of discussion in Stoic circles. Chrysippus wrote at length on the subject, comparing the customs of various nations as well as the habits of animals, in order to ascertain the law of nature. He reaches the conclusion that dead bodies should be disposed of in the simplest possible way, not being regarded as of more importance than the hair or nail-parings from which we part in life[41]. Cicero shortly sums up this discussion in the Tusculan disputations, and draws the conclusion that whilst the living must consider what it is fitting for them to do, to the dead man it is a matter totally[279] indifferent[42]. In the imperial period this consideration is of importance as showing that the tyrant has no power after death[43].


309. The Stoic view of slavery can readily be inferred. Without proposing the immediate abolition of this social institution, the Stoics treated it as essentially contrary to nature[44]. The earliest teachers seem to have passed over the subject in silence; Panaetius (as might be expected from his social position), justified slavery by the arguments of Plato and Aristotle in exceptional cases: ‘all those who through the infirmity of their nature are unfit to govern themselves, are rightly made slaves’[45]. According to this theory we may speak of a ‘natural slave’ (φύσει δοῦλος), who as such can no more have rights in the community than the lower animals. The true Stoic theory appears however to be formulated by a definition of Chrysippus, who says that a slave is a ‘labourer hired for life[46].’ This definition makes of slavery a contract, to which there are two parties; and Seneca rightly uses this definition to argue that the relations of master to slave are those of man to man, and that as the master may wrong his slave, so the slave may do a service to his master[47]. All this is really implied in the dogma that ‘women and slaves may become philosophers,’ as is realized by the Church Father Lactantius[48].



310. The Stoic principles of politics may be realized under any form of government, and the theory of Constitutions, like that of grammar, belongs to a neutral ground on which philosophers of different schools may work in harmony. The Peripatetics appear first to have taken up this study; of the Stoics Diogenes of Babylon[49], who himself acted as a political representative of Athens, is stated to have shown interest in this subject; and after him Panaetius developed a complete theory, of which the substance is preserved for us in Cicero’s de Re publica[50]. According to this theory, which Cicero puts in the mouth of Scipio Africanus, surrounded by Roman Stoics of distinction such as Laelius, Tubero, and Furius Philo, the best constitution is one in which the elements of monarchy, aristocracy and democracy are combined, though a bias remains in favour of monarchy[51]. This mixed constitution, according to the teaching of Panaetius and his pupil Polybius, is best illustrated in the Roman state[52]; whereas tyranny, the perversion of monarchy, is the worst of all governments. By such reasoning the Roman nobles of the first century B.C. and the first century A.D. alike persuaded themselves easily that Stoic teaching supported the position of the republican party. But in fact they were maintaining Peripatetic theories of government, and the real Stoic theory was far more in accord with that practice of the principate, according to which all citizens are treated with respect, and the government of them is placed in the hands of men selected for their personal merit. We shall discuss the whole question of the relation of Stoicism to Roman politics in a later chapter[53]; but we may notice here that those Stoics practically abandoned the theory of providence who looked into the history of their own times with the intention of seeing nowhere the ‘king,’ and everywhere the ‘tyrant.’ On the other[281] hand the practical statesmen who set about to re-create Roman law on the principle of substituting everywhere human rights for class privileges were men thoroughly imbued with the Stoic spirit, whether or not they were avowed disciples of this philosophy.

The citizen.

311. We must therefore maintain that the true Stoic state, whether it be called monarchy or democracy, calls for a revolt against nationalism, antiquity, custom, pride, and prejudice; and a new construction based upon universal reason and individual liberty. For the realization of this state it is first necessary to build up the individual, to fill his mind with the conception of reason and love, to strengthen his will to a true independence: for it is not buying or selling that makes the slave, but the will within[54]. All are in truth slaves except the wise man; for freedom is the power of directing one’s own actions[55]. Here then we pass from the community to the individual, from politics to ethics in the narrower sense.

The supreme good.

312. For the individual man the ethical problem is to bring himself, a part of nature, into harmony with the whole. Whether we think of destiny, of providence, of the gods, or of the state, success for the individual is to agree and to cooperate; to struggle and to rebel is to fail. This success is the end (τέλος) for which man exists, the supreme good (summum bonum), the ultimate good (ultimum bonorum), that towards which all other right action works, whilst it works itself for no other end[56]. Its name in the individual is virtue (ἀρετή, virtus), and it is an active and firmly-established disposition of the soul[57]. It follows from the monistic principle that the end for man is one, and that virtue is one; but nevertheless each is capable of being regarded in many aspects. The harmony of the ethical end with other parts of the Stoic philosophy[282] is marked by such phrases as ‘life according to nature[58],’ the rule ‘keep company with God[59],’ and the identification of virtue and reason[60].

Consistency with nature.

313. Because virtue is one thing and not many, it makes a man’s life one consistent whole, and stands in sharp contrast to the changing and undecided ways of the crowd. Virtue is therefore frequently defined as consistency in life[61], an even steady course of action[62], self-consistency[63], a principle in agreement with its applications[64]. The opposite of virtue is the unending restlessness and indecision of the man in the crowd[65]. Accordingly we are told that the earliest Stoics thought it a sufficient definition of wisdom or virtue that it was something simple[66]; and similarly Zeno said that the end of life was ‘to live consistently[67].’ To this short definition the words ‘with nature’ were soon added[68], whereby the distinctiveness of the original definition was diminished: for all the philosophical schools are agreed that the right life must be guided by nature (φύσει), not by convention (θέσει). From the time of Chrysippus the relation of right living to nature was further analyzed. Chrysippus defined the ‘nature’ referred to[283] as ‘universal and human nature[69],’ thereby further approximating to the teaching of rival schools; but on the other hand he gave this new and more characteristic explanation ‘to live virtuously is to live according to scientific knowledge of the phenomena of nature, doing nothing which the Universal Law forbids, which is the Right Reason which pervades all things, and is the same as Zeus, the Lord of the ordering of this world[70].’ Diogenes of Babylon introduced the words ‘to take a reasonable course in choosing or refusing things in accordance with nature[71].’ Antipater’s definition is ‘to live with preference for what is natural, and aversion to what is against nature[72],’ thus throwing the stress on the doctrine of the ‘things of high degree[73].’ Panaetius made a distinct step forward when he admitted the claims of universal nature to be supreme, but (subject to them) held that each man should follow the pointings of his individual nature[74]; this teaching however comes rather near to naming a twofold end. Cicero follows Panaetius in his de Officiis[75], but in the de Finibus adheres more closely to Chrysippus[76], and Seneca agrees with him in laying stress on the need of scientific knowledge of natural events[77]. In the main therefore ‘life according to nature’ means to the Stoics life in accordance with the general movement of the universe, to which the particular strivings of the individual must be subordinated.

Obedience to God.

314. From the religious standpoint virtue is willing cooperation with the deity, in preference to that unwilling cooperation to which even evil-doers are forced. This conception, first set forth by Cleanthes in a poem that we[284] have quoted above[78], is enforced by Seneca and Epictetus also in varying phrases. ‘I do not obey God,’ says Seneca, ‘I agree with him. I go with him heart and soul, and not because I must[79].’ With a slight change of language this leads us to the paradox that ‘obedience to God is liberty[80].’ ‘I have placed my impulses,’ says Epictetus, ‘in obedience to God. Is it his will that I shall have fever? It is my will too. Is it his will that I should obtain anything? It is my wish also. Does he not wish it? I do not wish it[81].’ The personal bent of Epictetus leads him to develope this idea in the direction of suffering rather than of acting. ‘If the good man had foreknowledge of what would happen, he would cooperate towards his own sickness and death and mutilation, since he knows that these things are assigned to him in accordance with the universal arrangement[82].’ The proof that this must be so rests on the unity of the Divine and individual purposes: ‘Good cannot be one thing, and that at which we are rationally delighted another thing[83].’

Social duty.

315. It is not perhaps quite so clearly stated that the virtue of the individual is that disposition which will make him the best possible member of society, that is, the best possible citizen of the Cosmopolis. Yet this is everywhere implied. In the first place the wise man will take part in the life of the community[84], he will marry and bring up children[85]. In the second place the virtue of man differs first from the corresponding quality in the animals in that man is formed by nature for social union; hence his reason only comes into play simultaneously with the recognition that he is a member of a community, and as such bound to prefer the good of the whole to that of a part. ‘Nature,’ says Panaetius, ‘through reason unites man to man, so that they have a common bond in conversation[285] and life; it induces men to approve and take part in public gatherings and festivals, and to collect the materials for a social and cultivated life for themselves, their children, and all whom they hold dear[86].’

Health of soul.

316. Virtue, as a disposition of the soul[87], reflects all the aspects in which the soul itself is regarded. Since the principate is both wisdom and will, so virtue is wisdom, according to the paradox of Socrates and the Cynics[88]. Because virtue is wisdom, it can be taught[89]; in fact, it can only be acquired by teaching; and equally evil-doing can be cured by teaching[90]. But no less virtue is will. Cleanthes emphasized this aspect, and identified virtue both with the Socratic ‘strength of character’ and with the Stoic ‘tone[91].’ In so far as virtue is will, it is to be acquired by constant practice[92]. A true judgment is endangered by hasty assent; a healthy will by slackness of the soul’s sinews. In the Stoic system vigour and strength of mind is everywhere identified with the ‘true tone’ (εὐτονία)[93]; the possibility of overstrain is not considered. But in the development of the ideal we have two varying aspects of virtue presented to us. At one moment we see the man of action, engaged in the thick of the battle, sun-browned, dusty, horny-handed[94]; with this model before him we find Musonius objecting altogether to relaxation of moral tone as being equivalent to its[286] loss[95]. At another moment we see the man of quiet conviction, who goes his way unmoved in the face of the howls of the mob or the threats of the tyrant[96]; he is distinguished by a mental calm[97] which no storms can shake. Any discrepancy between these views is finally reconciled by introducing a comparison between the soul and the body. The philosophers had at all times been greatly influenced by the theories and practice of the physicians; and they were proud to call themselves physicians of the soul.’ Chrysippus spent much time in comparing diseases of the soul to those of the body[98]. Equally there must be a healthy state of the soul corresponding to that of the body, in which all its parts are in harmony[99]. Hence in the Stoic prayer health of soul is asked for, side by side with health of body[100]; and Seneca bases a singularly complete statement of the Stoic conception of happiness upon a permanently healthy condition of the mind[101].

Virtue lies in intention.

317. Virtue is a state of the mind, a disposition of the soul; it is not an act. Hence the bent of the mind (inclinatio), its aim (intentio), its desire (βούλησις, voluntas) is everything; the performance through the organs of the body is nothing[102]. This Stoic dogma is to-day so familiar[287] in divinity, law, and society that it is not easy to realize how paradoxical it seemed when first stated. By its proclamation the Stoics defied the whole system of tabu by which the ancient world prohibited certain acts as in themselves dangerous and detestable; a system still in force in many departments of life and theoretically defended by the ‘intuitive system of morals.’ The defenders of tabu were bitterly affronted, and indignantly asked questions which mostly concerned the sexual relations, with regard to which tabu appears to have been at the time most vigorous. ‘Is there nothing wrong in cannibalism? in foul language? in incest? in the accursed relations with boy favourites (παιδικά)?’ To these questions firm-minded Stoics were bound to give a negative answer, thereby laying themselves open to the charge of being defenders of immorality. This charge however is never to be taken seriously; the high practical morality of the Stoics placed them beyond reproach. But it was also easy to raise a laugh by quotations from these austere moralists which sounded like a defence of licentiousness. The solution of the difficulty in each individual case follows exactly the same lines as in politics; and there is the same divergence of method between the early Stoics, who assert their principles at all costs, and those of the transition period, who are intent upon adapting them to the existing conditions of society. Here we need only discuss the questions of principle, as we deal with questions affecting practical life in another chapter[103].


318. The principal tabus affecting the individual have to do with cannibalism, the sexual relations, nudity, and obscenity. Of the first we have already spoken; the other three appeared to the Stoics partly due to inherited prejudices, partly to the theory that the body is in itself vile and corrupt. Of neither point of view could the Stoics approve. Hence their repeated assertions that no sexual act, whether commonly described as natural or as unnatural, is in itself to be condemned, but only according as it is seemly or unseemly for the individual[104]. It was perhaps unnecessary to explain to Greeks that the naked body is in itself no offensive sight, but[288] doubtless the Stoics had to make this clear to their Oriental pupils; Zeno at any rate laid down the principle when he said that men and women should wear the same clothes (meaning such as nature requires for warmth and not such as fashion prescribes), and hide no part of the body[105]. As to decency of language, it did not occur to the Stoics to discuss this question in connexion with the history of literature. Since truth is always good, and the very purpose of language is to express truth, a wise man will always say straight out what he needs to say[106].

Virtue in its applications.

319. Up to this point we find a broad resemblance between the ethical principles of the Stoics and the Cynics. Both assert the sole supremacy of virtue, ridicule traditional prejudices, and bid defiance to external circumstances. But there is at the same time divergence. To the Cynics virtue stands out as alone, needing no theory, and by itself in the universe. To the Stoics virtue is but one expression of that universal reason which is equally at work in the universe and in the human mind. The Stoics are therefore under the obligation of bringing virtue into touch with circumstances, the soul into harmony with the body. From this arises their doctrine that virtue is bound up with the study both of universal and of individual nature, and that amongst things indifferent there are some that the good man must seek, and others that he must avoid. The critics of Stoicism, both ancient and modern, regard this doctrine as an afterthought[107], suggested by practical difficulties, and alien from the original teaching of Zeno. This seems[289] to be a misapprehension. Undoubtedly Zeno had said: ‘some things are good, some are evil, some indifferent. Good are wisdom, temperance, justice, fortitude, everything that is virtue or an aspect of virtue; evil are folly, intemperance, injustice, cowardice, everything that is vice or an aspect of vice. Indifferent are life and death, glory and disgrace, pain and pleasure, riches and wealth, disease, health, and so forth[108].’ But there is a difference between a principle and its application; and this very list of things indifferent indicates by its contrasts an underlying difference, though it is not the difference between good and evil. Zeno was therefore quite consistent in proceeding to examine the nature of this difference.

Worth and Unworth.

320. This secondary difference is termed by the Stoics a difference of worth (ἀξία, aestimatio)[109]. Health, life, riches, have positive worth in greater or less degree; disease, death, poverty, have negative worth (ἀπαξία, inaestimabile)[110]. Between these lie things that are absolutely indifferent, as, for example, whether the number of hairs on one’s head is odd or even[111], or whether we take up one or the other of two coins that have the same general appearance and the same stamp[112]. Even here a slight distinction has to be made; as to whether the hairs on the head are odd or even in number we have not the slightest concern; but in the matter of the coins we must make a choice, and that quickly. Let us then settle the matter anyhow, by chance as common folk say; ‘for a reason that is not clear to us,’ as the Stoics say, not willing to admit an effect without a cause, and yet leaving the matter much where it was[113]. And now as to the things that have ‘worth’; it is clear that in some sense they are ‘according to nature,’ and in[290] the same sense those things that have ‘negative worth’ are opposed to nature[114]; and the former in some way approximate to the character of the good[115]. It is then necessary to describe them by some term other than ‘good.’ Zeno selected the term προηγμένον ‘of high degree,’ which Cicero translates variously by producta, promota, praecipua, praelata, and praeposita. This term, we are told, Zeno borrowed from court life: ‘for no one would think of calling a king “of high degree,” but only those who are of a rank next to his, though far below[116].’ The opposites were described as ἀποπροηγμένα (remota, reiecta) ‘things of low degree[117].’ Seneca, who states the theory with great clearness[118], commonly uses the handier terms commoda (‘advantages’) and incommoda (‘disadvantages’)[119]. In their treatment of the separate matters which fall under these divisions the Stoics were in close agreement with the Peripatetic theory of natural ends (τὰ κατὰ φύσιν)[120]: but their loyalty to their own school came into question, if they actually termed them ‘good’ or ‘evil,’ as Chrysippus thought permissible if sufficient precautions were taken[121], and as Seneca often describes them in his less careful moods[122].


The aim of virtue.

321. The advocates of Stoicism maintain that the theory of ‘advantages’ is essential to their system, because without it virtue has no meaning, and practical life no guide[123]; whereas as soon as this theory is established, we can assign to virtue the permanent and distinctive character, that it aims at securing ‘advantages’ and avoiding ‘disadvantages[124].’ Now we are able to enlarge, though we do not alter, our definition of the supreme good; the ‘consistent life,’ the ‘life consistent with nature,’ is the ‘life which is accompanied by a true knowledge of the things that happen by nature’; to which words we now add ‘choosing those things which are in accordance with nature, and avoiding those things which are against nature[125].’ Nevertheless, virtue consists wholly in the aiming at the mark, and not at all in the hitting it. As the true sportsman finds all his pleasure in throwing his quoit according to the rules of the game, and in aiming his arrow at the centre of the target, but cares not in the least (so it would seem) whether he succeeds[126]; so the wise man, even though (by those circumstances which he cannot control, and which in this connexion we call ‘the play of fortune’) he gain no ‘advantage’ at all, but suffer dishonour, captivity, mutilation, and death, still possesses the supreme good, still is as completely happy as though he enjoyed all things. This is the Stoic doctrine of the ‘sufficiency of virtue,’ expressed in the language of paradox, but nevertheless the central point of their whole ethical system; and its force is really[292] intensified by the doctrine of ‘advantages,’ which to a superficial critic appears to relax it.

Sufficiency of virtue.

322. The doctrine of the sufficiency (αὐτάρκεια, sufficientia) of virtue was consistently taught by the Stoics of all periods, though in ever-varying phraseology. Zeno adopted the Cynic phrase ‘virtue is sufficient for happiness,’ or in other words ‘virtue needs but herself for a happy life[127].’ Chrysippus maintains that there are only three logical views as to the supreme good, that it is virtue or pleasure or both[128], and for himself he chooses the first. Happiness therefore is not made greater if advantages are added to virtue; or rather, virtue does not permit addition (accessio)[129]. In the transition period Antipater of Tarsus is said to have faltered, and to have attributed a little importance, though very little, to external advantages[130]; but, as we have seen above[131], his definition of the supreme good is in full accord with the general teaching of the school. Panaetius and Posidonius held to the orthodox doctrine both in word and deed, if we may trust the direct statements of Cicero[132]; nevertheless they were so anxious to assimilate their expressions to those of ordinary life, that the conclusion could easily be drawn that in their hearts they too attached importance to external goods[133]. One authority indeed states that they held[293] health, strength, and estate to be ‘needful’ for happiness, thus abandoning the sufficiency of virtue[134]; but in the absence of direct quotation we shall hardly be willing to accept this statement as implying anything different from the distinction of Chrysippus, viz. that ‘the wise man needs nothing, but has use for everything[135].’ But any faltering shown by the transition writers was more than made good by the zeal of the teachers under the principate. Seneca enforces the paradox in a score of phrases; in the form of a proverb ‘virtue is its own reward[136]’; in rhetorical exuberance ‘virtue can defy death, ill