About 2300 years ago, a man named Zeno stands amongst a group of followers
and preaches to them a philosophy that would be held in high regards until present time.
On his porch in the city of Citium, Zeno explains to this crowd that the true path to
happiness lies in overcoming temptations and tribulations of the outside world in order to
find peace in oneself. By detaching ones self from temptations of pleasure and desire, and
by being undeterred by natural events that are out of one's control, level-headedness and
rational thought emerge. Passion can alter one's mind and one’s perception of truth. In
order to lead a virtuous life, the pursuit of truth cannot be interfered with, so passion must
be eliminated. Thus, in order to improve spirituality and continue the quest for happiness,
one must overcome emotions and passions. This philosophy of Zeno's, which he
preached from his "stoa", became known as Stoicism. (
It is obvious that most people are guided by their passions, such as a man’s quest
for women, or glory. True, there are many times that a woman can bring pleasure to one’s
life. But, as man knows well, horrendous pain tends to be the plate served most often. On
top of that, when one is in either one of these states of pleasure or pain, their judgment
tends to be obscured. Bad judgment leads to bad decisions, which tends to lead to more
What this stoicism teaches is that in order to avoid these peaks of enjoyment and
dread, passions must be controlled. If passions are controlled, one will most likely not
make a foolish decision out of extreme joy or explosive anger. Basically, if one does not
get too happy or too sad, they will find a comfortable balance in the middle.
While stoicism originated in Greece, it eventually made its way to Rome. There
were a few roman stoic contemporaries, but the most appealing of the group was Seneca.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca, while being forced into exile from
Rome, and eventually forced
to commit suicide by Nero's will, is known as Rome's greatest philosopher. Whereas most
stoics talked in general about how to enrich one’s life, Seneca discussed steps that one
could take to confront life's problems by examining one's own morality. He wrote a series
of tragedies while in exile, but it is not certain if they were ever produced into plays.
While the ideals of stoicism sound enticing in hindsight, most are not able to
control their lives to the extent of a Stoic. For this reason, stoicism did not become to
popular at first, as not many people wanted to live a life void of excitement. Because the