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Lives of The Stoics Summary – February 2022

Author: Ryan Holiday, Stephen Hanselman

Short Summary
Lives of the Stoics (2020) explains the true meaning of stoicism through the hardships faced by the early philosophers. The book is full of fascinating insights into the classical history and brings a fresh new perspective to this philosophy.
lives of the stoics
Source: amazon.com

Detailed Summary

The book Lives of the Stoics is written by Ryan Holiday. In his book, he has explained the meaning of stoicism through the lives of ancient philosophers.

Stoicism is a philosophy that originated in Ancient Greece about two thousand years ago. It is based on the principle that actions are more significant than words. To put it another way, living the right way entails more than simply saying the right things.

Through the lives of the stoics, the author has taught the readers that stoicism is built around four virtues I.e courage, wisdom, justice, and temperance. The book is a treasure for people who are interested in stoicism and history.

Lives of The Stoics Key Points

Biography of Zeno

Zeno was a well-known philosopher, and his Stoicism ideology was named after him. Courage, prudence, temperance, and justice were the driving values. Zeno was certain that philosophy should not be limited to classroom discussion. He thought it was something that should be implemented in daily life. Rather than giving lengthy lectures in front of a multitude, he just discussed his ideas on the Stoa Poikile porch in Athens. This humble porch gave rise to the philosophy of Stoicism.

It all began in the fourth century BCE with a shipwreck in the Mediterranean by a man named Zeno. Zeno and his family lost everything when the ship went down, as he made his fortune selling a rare purple dye. When confronted with this enormous challenge, he displayed the virtues of resilience and courage that Stoicism would come to exemplify. Instead, Zeno relocated to Athens to pursue a career as a philosopher. Due to the enormous slave population in Athens at the time, the affluent had a lot of free time to talk philosophy with one another. Crates of Thebes, Zeno’s instructor, taught him the fundamentals of philosophy. His first instruction was to assist Zeno in letting go of other people’s opinions about him.

Justice is more important than emotion

The book Lives of the Stoics teaches us a lesson that justice is more essential than emotion. And to advocate this, he shared the story of Ancient roman leader Cicero.

Despite the fact that Cicero produced a book about Stoicism, he did not always follow its precepts. He wasn’t born into a wealthy family, yet he rose quickly through the ranks of the Roman government. People admired him, especially after he brought a dishonest magistrate to justice for stealing money from Sicilians. But, despite his proclivity for justice and bravery, he wasn’t always motivated by good intentions. He primarily desired the fame and praise that came with being a leader, which is in direct opposition to Stoic beliefs.

This arrogance only got him so far before he had to deal with some rather dire consequences. Catiline, a Roman senator, attempted a coup against him soon after. When Cicero discovered the truth, he did something immoral and contrary to Stoic doctrine. He ordered the execution of all of Catiline’s supporters without a trial.

Thousands of people had been slaughtered by the time he finished, and it was a stain on his legacy. He’d let his rage get the better of him. Justice is more essential than emotion, according to someone who actually lived as a student of Stoicism.

Power gives rise to corruption

The book Lives of the Stoics tells us that those in positions of absolute authority are too often corrupted. Marcus Aurelius, the world’s first philosopher-king, is the one exception to this rule. This outstanding leader owes a lot to Stoicism. From his writings, we can see that he tried hard to live up to Stoicism. The mastery of the emotions of envy, lust, and fury was his main goal. He discovered that Stoicism aided him in developing a moral framework within which he could lead.

He was born in Rome in 121 CE, and Emperor Hadrian chose him as his successor when he was just 17 years old. Even though he was young and impressionable, Marcus didn’t allow his power get the best of him. He was always gentle and humble, and although living in a palace, he was known to pay visits to his tutors’ homes rather than having them come to him. His first move as emperor was to share authority with his adopted brother Lucius, effectively making him co-emperor. Marcus pardoned the conspirators after he found that one of his supporters, Cassius, was plotting a revolt against him, and even grieved when Cassius was assassinated in retaliation.

As a leader, he made certain that he was acting in the best interests of regular Romans rather than those in authority. Marcus seized all of the ornaments from palaces and sold them rather than raising people’s taxes when Rome’s coffers were running low.

Who would I recommend the Lives of the Stoics book to?

The book Lives of the Stoics is highly recommended to people who love to read history and philosophy. The book will motivate them to be better people after reading about the lives and hardships of some ancient philosophers.