Diogenes Laertius

Lives of the Philosophers VII: Zeno the Stoic (extract)

VI. And he used to walk up and down in the beautiful colonnade which is called the Priscanactium, and which is also called poikilê , from the paintings of Polygnotus, and there he delivered his discourses, wishing to make that spot tranquil; for in the time of the thirty, nearly fourteen hundred of the citizens had been murdered there by them. [261>]

VII. Accordingly, for the future, men came thither to hear him, and from this his pupils were called Stoics, and so were his successors also, who had been at first called Zenonians, as Epicurus tells us in his Epistles. And before this time, the poets who frequented this colonnade ( stoa ) had been called Stoics, as we are informed by Eratosthenes, in the eighth book of his treatise on the Old Comedy; but now Zeno's pupils made the name more notorious. Now the Athenians had a great respect for Zeno, so that they gave him the keys of their walls, and they also honoured him with a golden crown, and a brazen statue; and this was also done by his own countrymen, who thought the statue of such a man an honour to their city. And the Cittiaeans, in the district of Sidon, also claimed him as their countryman.

VIII. He was also much respected by Antigonus, who, whenever he came to Athens, used to attend his lectures, and was constantly inviting him to come to him. But he begged off himself, and sent Persaeus, one of his intimate friends, who was the son of Demetrius, and a Cittiaean by birth, and who flourished about the hundred and thirtieth olympiad, when Zeno was an old man. The letter of Antigonus to Zeno was as follows, and it is reported by Apollonius, the Syrian, in his essay on Zeno.


"I think that in good fortune and glory I have the advantage of you; but in reason and education I am inferior to you, also in that perfect happiness which you have attained to. On which account I have thought it good to address you, and invite you to come to me, being convinced that you will not refuse what is asked of you. Endeavour, therefore, by all means to come to me, considering this fact, that you will not be the instructor of me alone, but of all the Macedonians together. For he who instructs the ruler of the Macedonians and who leads him in the path of virtue, evidently marshals all his subjects on the road to happiness. For as the ruler is, so is it natural that his subjects for the most part should be also."

And Zeno wrote him hack the following answer. [262>]


"I admire your desire for learning, as being a true object for the wishes of mankind, and one too that tends to their advantage. And the man who aims at the study of philosophy has a proper disregard for the popular kind of instruction which tends only to the corruption of the morals. And you, passing by the pleasure which is so much spoken of, which makes the minds of some young men effeminate, show plainly that you are inclined to noble pursuits, not merely by your nature, but also by your own deliberate choice. And a noble nature, when it has received even a slight degree of training, and which also meets with those who will teach it abundantly, proceeds without difficulty to a perfect attainment of virtue. But I now find my bodily health impaired by old age, for I am eighty years old: on which account I am unable to come to you. But I send you some of those who have studied with me, who in that learning which has reference to the soul, are in no respect inferior to me, and in their bodily vigour are greatly my superiors. And if you associate with them you will want nothing that can bear upon perfect happiness."

So he sent him Persaeus and Philonides, the Theban, both of whom are mentioned by Epicurus, in his letter to his brother Aristobulus, as being companions of Antigonus.

IX. And I have thought it worth while also to set down the decree of the Athenians concerning him; and it is couched in the following language.

"In the archonship of Arrhenides, in the fifth presidency of the tribe Acamantis, on the twenty-first day of the month Maimacterion, on the twenty-third day of the aforesaid presidency, in a duly convened assembly, Hippo, the son of Cratistoteles, of the borough of Xypetion, being one of the presidents, and the rest of the presidents, his colleagues, put the following decree to the vote. And the decree was proposed by Thrason, of Anacaea, the son of Thrason.

"Since Zeno the son of Innaseas, the Cittitaean, has passed many years in the city, in the study of philosophy, being in all other respects a good man, and also exhorting all the young men who have sought his company to the practice of virtue, and encouraging them in the practice of temperance making his own life a model to all men of the greatest [263>] excellence, since it has in every respect corresponded to the doctrines which he has taught; it has been determined by the people (and may the determination be fortunate), to praise Zeno, the son of Innaseas, the Cittiaean, and to present him with a golden crown in accordance with the law, on account of his virtue and temperance, and to build him a tomb in the Ceramicus, at the public expense. And the people has appointed by its vote five men from among the citizens of Athens, who shall see to the making of the crown and the building of the tomb. And the scribe of the borough shall enrol the decree and engrave it on two pillars, and he shall be permitted to place one pillar in the Academy, and one in the Lyceum. And he who is appointed to superintend the work shall divide the expense that the pillars amount to, in such a way that every one may understand that the whole people of Athens honours good men both while they are living and after they are dead. And Thrason of Anacaea, Philocles of the Piaeus, Phaedrus of Anaphlystos, Medon of Acharnaes, Mecythus of Sypalyttas, and Dion of Paeania, are hereby appointed to superintend the building of the tomb."

These then are the terms of the decree.

X. But Antigonus, of Carystos, says, that Zeno himself never denied that he was a native of Cittium. For that when on one occasion, there was a citizen of that town who had contributed to the building of some baths, and was having his name engraved on the pillar, as the countryman of Zeno the philosopher, he bade them add, "Of Cittium."

XI. And at another time, when he had had a hollow covering made for some vessel, he carried it about for some money, in order to procure present telief for some difficulties which were distressing Crates his aster. And they say that he, when he first arrived in Greece, had more than a thousand talents, which he lent out at nautical usury.

XII. And he used to eat little loaves and honey, and to drink a small quantity of sweet smelling wine.

XIII. He had very few youthful acquaintances of the male sex, and he did not cultivate them much, lest be should be thought to be a misogynist. And he dwelt in the same house with Persaeus; and once, when he brought in a female flute-player to him, he hastened to bring her back to him.

XIV. And he was, it is said, of a very accommodating [264>] temper; so much so, that Antigonus, the king, often came to dine with him, and often carried him off to dine with hirn, at the house of Aristocles the harp-player; but when he was there, he would presently steal away.

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