Zeno of Citium

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Greek, Ancient: Ζήνων
Also Known As: "Founder of Stoicism"
Birthdate: (72)
Birthplace: Citium, Cyprus
Death: -262 (72)
Athens, Attica, Greece (Strangled himself after being wounded and accepting innevitable death)
Place of Burial: Athens, Attica, Greece
Occupation: Philosopher, founder of Stoic School of Phoilosophy
Managed by: Private User
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About Zeno of Citium

Zeno of Citium. Greek philosopher. Founder of Stoicism

Zeno of Citium (Greek: Ζήνων ὁ Κιτιεύς, Zēnōn ho Kitieŭs; 334 BCE - 262 BCE) 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.


Zeno was born c. 334 BC, 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, when he came to Athens to learn philosophy, at the age of 22. 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.

Zeno is described as a haggard, tanned person, living a spare, ascetic life. 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!"

Apart from Crates, Zeno studied under the philosophers of the Megarian school, including Stilpo, and the dialecticians Diodorus Cronus, and Philo. He is also said to have studied Platonist philosophy under the direction of Xenocrates, and Polemo.

Zeno began teaching in the colonnade in the Agora of Athens known as the Stoa Poikile in 301 BC. His disciples were initially called Zenonians, but eventually they came to be known as Stoics, a name previously applied to poets who congregated in the Stoa Poikile.

Among the admirers of Zeno was king Antigonus II Gonatas of Macedonia,[who, whenever he came to Athens, would visit Zeno. Zeno is said to have declined an invitation to visit Antigonus in Macedonia, although their supposed correspondence preserved by Laërtius is undoubtably the invention of a later rhetorician. Zeno instead sent his friend and disciple Persaeus, who had lived with Zeno in his house. Among Zeno's other pupils there were Aristo of Chios, Sphaerus, and Cleanthes who succeeded Zeno as the head (scholarch) of the Stoic school in Athens.

Zeno is said to have declined Athenian citizenship when it was offered to him, fearing that he would appear unfaithful to his native land Phoenicia, where he was highly esteemed. We are also told that Zeno was of an earnest, if not gloomy disposition; that he preferred the company of the few to the many; that he was fond of burying himself in investigations; and that he had a dislike to verbose and elaborate speeches. Diogenes Laërtius has preserved many clever and witty remarks by Zeno, the veracity of which cannot be ascertained.

Zeno died around 262 BC. Laërtius reports about his death: "As he left the school, he tripped, fell and broke a toe. Hitting the ground with his hand, he cited words of Niobe: "I am coming, why do you call me thus?" Since the Stoic sage was expected to always do what was appropriate (kathekon) and Zeno was very old at the time, he felt it appropriate to die and consequently strangled himself.

During his lifetime, Zeno received appreciation for his philosophical and pedagogical teachings. Amongst other things, Zeno was honored with the golden crown,[25] and a tomb was built in honor of his moral influence on the youth of his era.

The crater Zeno on the Moon is named in his honor.


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Zeno of Citium's Timeline

Age 71
Athens, Attica, Greece
Athens, Attica, Greece