What kind of life is worth living? This question permeates human reflections throughout history, and today we are going to dive 2,300 years into the past, straight to Athens, Ancient Greece. The prominent location at the time was the Agora of Athens, a vibrant public space where commerce, political debate and philosophy coexisted. From there, a philosophy emerged that transcended centuries and reached us: stoicism.
What is stoicism?
Stoicism had its starting point in the Painted Portico, where Zeno of Citius began to expose his ideas. The story of Zeno, who lost everything in a storm in the Mediterranean Sea, is emblematic. Faced with adversity, he sought refuge in rationality, giving rise to Stoicism, a philosophy that uses reason to deal with emotions, avoid vices and cultivate virtues.
Although today Stoicism is preached as a philosophy of “tough” people, without emotions, this concept is seen differently for true Stoics. This philosophy, in fact, focuses on the transience of things in life.
In other words, we cannot allow ourselves to be dominated by the extremes of passion. Don't be too happy for having achieved something, or too sad for having lost something. Everything will calm down. Identifying what we control and what we don’t control is the first step towards achieving peace of mind.
Epictetus was a Greek Stoic philosopher who lived in the 1st century AD. His philosophy stood out for its emphasis on ethics, self-control and serene acceptance of life's circumstances. Despite being a slave during his youth, Epictetus devoted himself to the study of philosophy and eventually gained his freedom. His teachings were recorded by his student, Arrian, in “Encheirídion” and “Discursos”, works that influenced later generations of philosophers.
Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher, known for his significant contributions to practical philosophy. He reigned as emperor from 161 to 180 AD, during a challenging period in Roman history. His best-known work, “Meditations”, is a collection of personal reflections and ethical principles that outline his stoic approach to the adversities of life and the exercise of power.
Seneca, one of the most prominent Stoic philosophers of ancient Rome, lived in the 1st century AD. In addition to his philosophical contributions, Seneca stood out as a playwright, orator and advisor to Emperor Nero. His Stoic philosophy was centered on the pursuit of wisdom and the practice of virtue as means to achieve a full and meaningful life. In his numerous letters and essays, such as the “Dialogues” and “On the Brevity of Life”, Seneca explored themes such as the need to face death with serenity, the importance of emotional self-sufficiency and individual responsibility in cultivating wisdom.
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