Zeno of Citium

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Zeno of Citium (Greek: Ζήνων ὁ Κιτιεύς, Zēnōn ho Kitieŭs; c.334 BC - c.262 BC) was a Greek philosopher from Citium (Greek: Κίτιον), Cyprus. Zeno was the founder of the Stoic school of philosophy, which he taught in Athens from about 300 BC. Based on the moral ideas of the Cynics, Stoicism laid great emphasis on goodness and peace of mind gained from living a life of virtue in accordance with nature. It proved very successful, and flourished as the dominant philosophy from the Hellenistic period through to the Roman era.

Contents

Life

Zeno was born c. 334 BC,[a] in Citium in Cyprus. Most of the details we know about his life come from the anecdotes preserved by Diogenes Laërtius in his Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers. Zeno was the son of a Phoenician merchant and was a merchant himself,[1] when he came to Athens to learn philosophy,[2] at the age of 22.[3] The story goes that, after a shipwreck, Zeno wandered into a bookshop in Athens and was attracted to some writings about Socrates. He asked the librarian how to find such a man. In response, the librarian pointed to Crates of Thebes, the most famous Cynic living at that time in Greece.[4]

Zeno is described as a haggard, tanned person,[5] living a spare, ascetic life.[6] This coincides with the influences of Cynic teaching, and was, at least in part, continued in his Stoic philosophy. In one incident during his tutelage with Crates, he was made to carry a pot of lentil soup around the city. After Zeno began carrying the pot, Crates smashed it with his staff, splattering the lentil soup all over his surprised student. When Zeno began to run off in embarrassment, Crates chided, "Why run away, my little Phoenician? Nothing terrible has befallen you!"[7]

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