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Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy that had its beginning in Athens (300 BCE), spread throughout ancient Greece, and went on to became the predominate philosophical school of the Roman empire. In 529 CE the Emperor Justinian I ordered all the schools of philosophy closed, bring the Stoic school to a formal end; but it has continued as an influence through surviving texts, and is today receiving renewed interest. [1][2]

Historians of philosophy divide development of the Stoic school into three phases

No complete manuscript by a Stoic philosopher survives from the first two phases of Stoicism. Only Roman texts of the Late Stoa survive.[3]

Early Stoicism

Only fragments of writings survive, but it is clear that early stoicism had a metaphysical side, which was materialist in nature. The school is, however, particularly known for its ethical teaching. Virtue was considered to be the sole good, to be pursued for itself, though happiness would be found in following virtue. Socrates was considered to be the great example, particularly his behaviour at his death.

Middle Stoicism

Again, only fragments survive

Late Stoicism and its continuing influence

The stoic school continued to have its attractions for many thinkers throughout medieval times, and this led to the survival of whole books from this period, in particular the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. Chaucer, for instance, quoted Seneca. The influence continued into the renaissance: Montaigne had a quotation from Epictetus carved on his library, to the effect that people are tormented by the view they take of things, not by the things themselves, and quoted it in his 14th Essai.


  1. The Cambridge Companion to Stoicism, 2003, ed. Brad Inwood, p.7-36
  2. A New Stoicism, Lawrence C. Becker, 1998, p.3-7
  3. A.A.Long, Hellenistic Philosophy, p.115.