Stoic philosophy is one of the very few ancient philosophies still practiced today. It’s logical approach, practicality, and effectiveness have acted like armour against the sands of time that have eroded many of the other philosophies of the ancient world.

If you’re new to Stoic philosophy and want to find out how it’s lessons and practices can help you live a more stable and happy life, you can find an introduction here.

Stoic philosophy was created around 300BC by a man called Zeno of Citium. Time is not often kind to books, letters, scripts and essays. As a result, much of the work from Stoic philosophers has been lost.

However the ancients have gifted us with a handful of existing texts, work on which the entire modern philosophy of Stoicism is built.

We owe our thanks to three main contributors from ancient Greece and Rome. Men who’s wisdom and guidance have benefited soldiers, politicians, prisoners of war and many others over time. These are:

  1. The Emperor of Rome, Marcus Aurelius

  2. The Slave turned Philosopher, Epictetus (my personal favourite)

  3. The statesman, Seneca The Younger

These three men came from opposite ends of life, one was a former slave who was granted his freedom, another was the Emperor of Rome itself.

I think this diversity shines a light on Stoicism’s relevance to all areas of life, whether you are rich, poor, strong, weak, fortunate or unfortunate, we are all human and Stoicism is a framework for human life, whatever that life might look like.



Zeno of Citium was an ancient philosopher born around 334 BC, originally from an area known as Citium on the island of Cyprus. At the age of 34, Zeno eventually found himself in the centre of Athens debating philosophy and founding one of the most prominent philosophical schools of the time, and one of the few that are practised to this day.

Almost all of what we know of Zeno comes from the book; Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius, written around 300AD.

Zeno’s journey began on the wooden deck of a merchant ship. He travelled across the Ionian sea, under the Mediterranean sun and through the salt spray of the water, from port to port, buying and selling goods. By all accounts these trade routes helped him become a wealthy man.

However, on a journey to Greece his ship was wrecked and he lost everything. With no boat and no way to make a living, Zeno made it to shore and found his way to Athens. During this time he frequented a bookseller and began to read a copy of Xenephon’s Memorabilia.

This book introduced Zeno to the life and philosophy of Socrates. He was so taken by the accounts of Socrates that he asked the bookseller if there were any similar men in the area from whom he could learn. As fortune would have it a Cynic philosopher, Crates of Thebes was nearby and the bookseller pointed the man out to Zeno. This introduction put him onto the path of the philosopher.

Zeno became Crates’ pupil before studying more broadly, including the philosophy of Plato. Around the year 301BC, Zeno started to teach philosophy under the shade of a colonnade in central Athens. The area was called the Stoa Poikile, or painted porch. From the word stoa were born the Stoics which we know today.

Zeno died around the year 262BC, a tomb was built to commend the influence he had on the morality and ethics of the youth at the time. There is also a crater on the moon named after him.


Marcus Aurelius was born during 121AD, and his reign as Emperor lasted from 161 – 180 AD. While he is well known for being one of Rome’s more benevolent leaders, he is less known for his contribution to Stoic philosophy.

During the later years of his life, Aurelius started to write a private journal. The journal, as far as we know, was not meant for anyone else to read or anyone to publish. However in this little book Aurelius detailed his personal philosophy, his own brand of Stoicism that helped him understand who he was and what impact he wanted to make on the world.

It wasn’t simply a diary, it was the work of a man who was exploring the ideas of Stoic philosophy to try and find out how to live a better life and understand his place in the world.

The journal was later published and is now widely known as the Meditation of Marcus Aurelius, one of the most prominent works of Stoic philosophy that survives today. The book itself is filled with Stoic teachings, advice on how to deal with hardship, tools we can use in our relationships with others and ourselves, and a multitude of other thoughts and ideas on how to live happier, more resilient lives. 


“To achieve freedom and happiness, you need to grasp this basic truth: some things in life are under your control, and others are not.

Within your control are your own opinions, aspirations, desires, and the things that repel you. We always have a choice about the contents and character of our inner lives.

Not within your control is literally everything else. You must remember these things are externals, and none of your concern.”


Epictetus grew up a slave in ancient Greece, born in 55AD he was cast into a life of service and subordination until he earned his freedom. During those years he was beaten and mistreated to such an extent that he was left crippled and  walked for many of his later years with a limp. These experiences of suffering and hardship kindled a spark that led Epictetus to develop and teach the concepts of Stoicism and ultimately become one of the most influential Greek philosophers of his time, teaching that philosophy was not just for theoretical debate, lectures and speculation but had real, practical application to help the lives of everyday men and women who chose to practice it.

As a free man Epictetus’ life eventually led him down a road to start his own school where he lectured until he died around 135 AD, promoting resilience and strength of character as an antidote to suffering and living a better life in times of difficulty. Although he wrote no books and made no publications of his work, one student created a collection of notes on his teachings, notes which were eventually organised and turned into one of the most prominent texts of ancient philosophy, The Discourses of Epictetus.

Life as a slave was full of suffering and uncertainty, with a constant threat of violence, execution or mistreatment. Despite this, Epictetus believed that a person could still live a good life regardless of their situation, it is all down to how we manage our thoughts and how we view the world. His own method of remaining resilient involved constant reminders of what was within his control and what was not.

“Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.”

– Epictetus

With the guidance and teachings from Zeno of Citium, Epictetus developed a system of thought that allowed him to remain calm and mentally resilient despite the threats on his life. He did this by focusing on what was within his control and accepting what was not:

“test and assess it with your criteria, but one primarily: ask, ‘Is this something that is, or is not, in my control?’ And if it’s not one of the things that you control, be ready with the reaction, ‘Then it’s none of my concern.’”

– Epictetus

Although difficult to read, Epictetus instructs us to judge whether something is inside or outside our control, if we find it to be outside then be ready to say ‘Then it’s none of my concern’.

The work of Epictetus has since had a profound impact on people throughout history. The Stoic’s lessons found their way to one of Rome’s greatest emperors, Marcus Aurelius. He was deeply influenced by the teachings of Epictetus, and his own untitled journal which has since been called ‘Meditations’ is extremely powerful in itself and is peppered with the echoes of Epictetus and considered by many to be one of the worlds greatest works of philosophy despite being the private journal of an Emperor coming to the end of his life. Modern prisoners of war have found comfort in the ancient lessons of Stoic philosophy, remaining resilient in the understanding that whatever is done to them in captivity is outside their control and that they still have control over their mind, which no one can take from them. Used by Emperors and prisoners of war alike, this concept is key to maintaining our well being.


Lucius Annaeus Seneca, known as Seneca the Younger, was a Roman statesman, tutor, playwright and Stoic philosopher. Seneca was born in Spain 4BC, but moved to live in Rome where he trained in rhetoric and philosophy.

Later in life Seneca became a tutor to a young Nero. As Nero matured and eventually became emperor of Rome in 54AD, Seneca stayed by his side as an adviser to help run the government and the affairs of state. The relationship between Seneca and Nero steadily eroded as Nero became more tyrannical and paranoid. In 65AD Nero forced Seneca to commit suicide after being accused of plotting Nero’s assassination.

Seneca is known in the philosophical community for his excellent works on Stoicism. His collection of letters are one of the most prominent works of Stoic philosophy and are now published as a book that outlines how to conduct oneself, deal with other people, live a good life, approach adversity or death, and develop awareness of one’s emotions.

Seneca’s work is known for its accessibility and application to everyday men and women. Where other schools shared more complex doctrines and strict guidelines, Seneca promoted a Stoicism that was meant for everyday, practical use.

These three were the most prominent Stoics of the time, however there were a handful of other Stoic philosophers that can add a great deal of value. If you’re interested I’ve included a few below with liks to their wiki pages.

I hope you found something useful for your Stoic journey.

Amor Fati

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