Epictetus (c. 50–c. 130), born a Greek slave in Asia Minor, was freed sometime after the
death of Nero, in 68. He along with all the philosophers was expelled from Rome by the
Emperor Domitian in 90 and died in northern Greece about 130. He was known as a kindly
man, humble and charitable, especially to children. He was crippled in slavery, which may
have influenced his motto: “Bear and forbear.” He embraced Stoicism and taught that we
should submit to our fate as God's sacred gift and design. Epictetus did not publish anything, but his pupil Flavius Arrianus recorded his teachings, the most famous of which is
was a Greek school of philosophy founded in circa 300 B.C. in Athens by Zeno
of Citium and developed into the dominant philosophy of the Roman Empire. The word stoa
from which “Stoic” derives is the Greek word for porch. Apparently Zeno lectured
from the “painted porch,” a public building in the Agora. The Stoics believed that we should
resign ourselves to our fate, do our duty faithfully, and thereby acquire tranquillity of mind.
The world is transient and unstable. We cannot change very much, but we can master our
souls so that we attain tranquillity amidst the chaos all around us. Stoics were the first
world citizens, “cosmopolitans,” holding that a divine spark indwelt every human being.
Chrysippus (c. 280–206 B.C.), referred to in the text, was the third leader of the Stoics and
credited with over 700 treatises.
I. Religious Materialists: Everything was made up of matter (monists—one vs. many),
including God. But there are degrees of condensation and rarefaction of matter (Aristotle's
four elements). The soul in every man was a rarefied divine spark, which was manifest in
).II. The Universe is a Vast Animal whose soul is God, a divine fire, the Universal Logos
We are mini-animals whose soul is a mini-god, possessing as it does sparks of the divine
fire. Universe is a spherical plenum held together by tension, the more tension the more
value. Accordingly, the world consists of four kinds of beings:
|1. ||Least tension—mere material objects, rocks and sand|
|2. ||A little more tension—plants|
|3. ||Moderate tension (souls)—animals|
|4. ||High tension (mini-cosmos)—man (rational animals)|
III. Universalism: The Stoics were the first cosmopolitans, believing that all men were
brothers under one Father, God.