Categories: Happy Living

Stoicism: The Stoic Philosophy, Its Teachings and Main Figures

Three things are mainly responsible for starting Stoicism:

  • The wisdom of Rome’s one the greatest emperors that he passed on to the generations with his personal diaries. We still learn from the remarkable knowledge of these texts.
  • Personal letters of one of the greatest playwrights and political advisor of Rome.
  • And some lectures of a slave from Rome who later became a popular and one the greatest influential teachers in the history of Rome.

Even after more than two thousands years later, the greatest wisdom of these documents are still preserved. These documents laid the foundation of one the most disciplined cultures of the western world, we today know as Stoicism.

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Basically, Stoicism is a philosophy or a tool which teaches us self control, preserving our physical and mental health and how to be the greatest version of yourself. In fact, it teaches us a lot more than that.

Stoicism is a way of life, it is not just a philosophy or a religion. It has set of logical facts and beliefs to improve self control and self discipline. Stoicism involves constant practice, dedication and devotion. It is a kind of practice of different approaches of meditation to be intensely present in the moment with courage accepting things that you cannot control.

The three people that I gave a hint about at the beginning are:

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  • Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius
  • The playwright and political advisor Seneca
  • And Epictetus who later became a great influential teacher

These are the three people who gave us the wisdom of Stoicism that millions of people follow even today.

Meditations: Personal Diaries of Marcus Aurelius (The foundation of Stoicism):

You must have heard about the book Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. It is a part of personal diaries of the Roman emperor in which he has gratefully mentioned about the people around him.

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Meditations is a collection of 12 personal diaries written by Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. These books are enough to understand Stoicism. These books will teach you self discipline. It is Bill Clinton’s favorite book.

He has brilliantly mentioned about their great qualities and what he learned from them. The book is filled with practical wisdom. It is a timeless book which contains life changing lessons on self discipline and self improvement.

Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius

Meditations is an ocean of wisdom for how to love yourself and learn from people around you. How to to live with less and not crave for attention and recognition. And how one may take suffering in life in stride.

He was the most powerful man in the world back then. It was easy for him to become cocky and feel like the king of the world, he could do anything. But instead he chose the path of virtue, gratitude and grace.

Teachings of Stoicism:

Now look at the four teachings of Stoicism, which we can learn from the wisdom of Stoicism. It will help you become mentally strong.

Meditations Book by Marcus Aurelius

Find Wise People to Learn From:

There is a saying that you are average of five people you hand out with the most. Be careful while choosing your company and whom you follow. Follow only those who are morally sound and who bring out the best in you.

You will gradually start you intake some of their qualities. If you go out with the show offs, in no time you will be a show off and you would not even notice it until you finally realize it.

Stoicism teaches us that only follow those people from whom you can learn and develop discipline in you. Similarly, teach these virtues to the younger people.

Hang out with those who see the beauty of the world as it is and don not complaint about it. Who have courage in your heart to see the the bad and not be too emotional about it. Who keep their emotions in a balanced state whether they are facing the bad time or good time in their lives.

Stoicism teaches us to be humble towards people and respect everyone. You know nothing about their past and what they are going through right now.

Don’t judge anyone instead help them and teach the to take control over things which they can control. And let go the things that are not in your control.

For example, do praise the beauty of a flower but also learn to see the poisonous snake as a beautiful creature. Accept its nature, it is what it is. Mother nature has created it as she has created us.

Review Your Day at the End of the Each Day:

Everyday before going to sleep, review your day. Analyse how it went. What did you learn today? What bothered you today and how you can resolve it so that everyone can take benefit from it.

Stoics say that it’s a shame to forget what you did today.

Every night before falling asleep, close your eyes and remember the people that you met today. How were they and what you learned from them. If you can help someone to make the world slightly better than before, do so.

You should remind yourself at night that what good deed you did today. Whether you were in your full control or something/someone else was driving you. If so, think how can you improve it to take the full control over your body, mind, thoughts and emotions.

Your Only are Responsible for Your Distractions:

Marcus Aurelius says that if external things are bothering you are you are distressed by anything external, that external things is actually not bothering you but its estimation is bothering you. And you only are the one estimating it. And you only have the power to revoke at any moment.

You can not control the external situations but what you can control is your reaction to it and how you respond to it.

If small things are bothering you then it is your weakness. You have to work on yourself and external things will never bother you again.

If you understand only a simple thing that you can’t control the external situations are start you accept them as they are, you can achieve tranquility. It will help you until you die.

Consider Each and Every Day a New Life:

Start fresh every day. Don’t a bad day become a bad week, a bad week a bad month and a bad month a bad year. Each morning when you wake up, remind yourself that it is a new day.

Let all the past worries die with yesterday. Don’t ever forget your roots and what you have learnt from the past but also don’t let your past ruin the present.

For example, if you could not do exercise yesterday or couldn’t study then it is okay, today is the day that you make up for yesterday. Whatever you could not do in the past, you can always start as fresh.

What has already happened, doesn’t define your character but what does define your character is your ability to keep the past aside and move forward in the present.

Capitol Square Rome Campidoglio

The Main Figures of Stoicism:

Marcus Aurelius:

Marcus Aurelius was one of greatest Roman emperors that have ever lived. Apart from being a respected king, he was also an inspirational philosopher.

He is arguably the most respected emperor in the entire Roman empire history. He was born into a wealthy and powerful royal family. Growing up, Marcus Aurelius was a dedicated student. He was fluent is Latin and Greek languages and respected his teachers.

Discourses is a series of informal lectures by a former slave and Stoic philosopher Epictetus. These lectures had a great influence over the life and personality of Marcus Aurelius. It written by Epictetus’s disciple Arrian around 108 AD.

Marcus Aurelius was very hard working and down to Earth emperor. He kept a few personal diaries in which he penned down his wisdom. Later, these diaries were published in a series of 12 books, known as Meditations.

Epictetus:

Epictetus was born more than 2000 years ago. He is one of the main figures of Stoicism. During his early life he was a slave but somehow he managed to attend lectures by the Stoic Musonius Rufus. His wealthy owner also gave him the permission to pursue his learning.

He later became a freedman and lived his life lame and in ill health. After he was a free man he was expelled from Rome by then emperor of Rome Domitian with other philosophers. Then Epictetus spent rest of his life in Nicopolis in Greece as a teacher.

He based his teachings on the works of the early Stoics, which is not available now. His teachings mainly focused on the three branches of Stoicism: logic, physics and ethics.

His series of informal lectures Discourses and the Handbook focus mainly on ethics. In his book Meditations, Marcus Aurelius thanks his teacher Junius Rusticus for introducing him to Epictetus.

Seneca:

Seneca the Younger was one the Rome’s most important intellectual figures in the mid-1st century CE. He was the advisor of emperor Nero, one of the most terrible emperors of Roman history. Seneca was considered as virtual ruler of Rome with his friends between 54 and 62, during the first phase of the emperor Nero’s reign.

Seneca the Younger was the second son of a wealthy family. His father, Seneca the Elder, was very popular in Rome as a teacher of rhetoric. His mother, Helvia, was of excellent character and was very educated.

He was one the richest and most powerful persons of Roman empire at that time and also he was a great Stoic philosopher. Most of his teaching came out in the form of letters, which became the foundation of Stoicism and modern Stoic philosophy.

FAQs:

Question 1: Who are the main figures of Stoicism?

Answer: Most well known Stoic philosopher are Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, the playwright and political advisor Seneca and Epictetus a slave who later became a great influential teacher

Question 2: Where did Stoicism originate?

Answer: Stoicism was originated in Greece and later spread to Rome.

Question 3: Who founded Stoicism:

Answer: Zeno of Citium (modern day Cyprus), c. 300 B.C.E. founded it as a Hellenistic philosophy in Athens (Greece).

Question 4: Are Stoics happy?

Answer: If you follow Stoicism truly with heart, you will learn to accept everything that you cannot control. Therefore, you will always be in a balanced state of emotions.

Question 5: What is the purpose of Stoicism:

Answer: Stoicism is an ancient Greek and Roman philosophy which teaches you self control, self discipline and self improvement. It appeals to the millions of people worldwide even today.

Bhartendu Joshi

Just a guy experiencing the world. A blogger and an amateur guitarist. Instagram

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