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Lives of the Stoics
Cover of Lives of the Stoics
Lives of the Stoics
The Art of Living from Zeno to Marcus Aurelius
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Instant New York Times Advice & Business Bestseller, USA Today Bestseller, and Wall Street Journal #1 Bestseller!
A New York Times Noteworthy Pick and a "stellar work" by Publishers Weekly
From the bestselling authors of The Daily Stoic comes an inspiring guide to the lives of the Stoics, and what the ancients can teach us about happiness, success, resilience and virtue.

Nearly 2,300 years after a ruined merchant named Zeno first established a school on the Stoa Poikile of Athens, Stoicism has found a new audience among those who seek greatness, from athletes to politicians and everyone in between. It's no wonder; the philosophy and its embrace of self-mastery, virtue, and indifference to that which we cannot control is as urgent today as it was in the chaos of the Roman Empire.
In Lives of the Stoics, Holiday and Hanselman present the fascinating lives of the men and women who strove to live by the timeless Stoic virtues of Courage. Justice. Temperance. Wisdom. Organized in digestible, mini-biographies of all the well-known—and not so well-known—Stoics, this book vividly brings home what Stoicism was like for the people who loved it and lived it, dusting off powerful lessons to be learned from their struggles and successes.
More than a mere history book, every example in these pages, from Epictetus to Marcus Aurelius—slaves to emperors—is designed to help the reader apply philosophy in their own lives. Holiday and Hanselman unveil the core values and ideas that unite figures from Seneca to Cato to Cicero across the centuries. Among them are the idea that self-rule is the greatest empire, that character is fate; how Stoics benefit from preparing not only for success, but failure; and learn to love, not merely accept, the hand they are dealt in life. A treasure of valuable insights and stories, this book can be visited again and again by any reader in search of inspiration from the past.
Instant New York Times Advice & Business Bestseller, USA Today Bestseller, and Wall Street Journal #1 Bestseller!
A New York Times Noteworthy Pick and a "stellar work" by Publishers Weekly
From the bestselling authors of The Daily Stoic comes an inspiring guide to the lives of the Stoics, and what the ancients can teach us about happiness, success, resilience and virtue.

Nearly 2,300 years after a ruined merchant named Zeno first established a school on the Stoa Poikile of Athens, Stoicism has found a new audience among those who seek greatness, from athletes to politicians and everyone in between. It's no wonder; the philosophy and its embrace of self-mastery, virtue, and indifference to that which we cannot control is as urgent today as it was in the chaos of the Roman Empire.
In Lives of the Stoics, Holiday and Hanselman present the fascinating lives of the men and women who strove to live by the timeless Stoic virtues of Courage. Justice. Temperance. Wisdom. Organized in digestible, mini-biographies of all the well-known—and not so well-known—Stoics, this book vividly brings home what Stoicism was like for the people who loved it and lived it, dusting off powerful lessons to be learned from their struggles and successes.
More than a mere history book, every example in these pages, from Epictetus to Marcus Aurelius—slaves to emperors—is designed to help the reader apply philosophy in their own lives. Holiday and Hanselman unveil the core values and ideas that unite figures from Seneca to Cato to Cicero across the centuries. Among them are the idea that self-rule is the greatest empire, that character is fate; how Stoics benefit from preparing not only for success, but failure; and learn to love, not merely accept, the hand they are dealt in life. A treasure of valuable insights and stories, this book can be visited again and again by any reader in search of inspiration from the past.
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  • From the cover Introduction


    The only reason to study philosophy is to become a better person. Anything else, as Nietzsche said, is merely a “critique of words by means of other words.”

    No school of thought believed this—in the power of deeds over ideas—more than Stoicism, an ancient philosophy that dates to Greece in the third century BC.

    It was Seneca, a Stoic philosopher of the Roman era, far removed from the academy, who would say quite bluntly that there was no other purpose to reading and study if not to live a happy life.

    Yet this is not the role philosophy plays in the modern world. Today it’s about what smart people say, what big words they use, what paradoxes and riddles they can baffle us with.

    No wonder we dismiss it as impractical. It is!

    This book will be about a different and far more accessible type of wisdom, the kind that comes from people like Seneca, a man who served his country at the highest levels, endured exile and loss, struggled with ambition and personal flaws, and ultimately died tragically and heroically trying to make good on his theories. Unlike the so-called “pen-and-ink philosophers,” as the type was derisively known even two thousand years ago, the Stoics were most concerned with how one lived. The choices you made, the causes you served, the principles you adhered to in the face of adversity. They cared about what you did, not what you said.

    Their philosophy, the one that we need today more than ever, was a philosophy not of ephemeral ideas but of action. Its four virtues are simple and straightforward: Courage. Temperance. Justice. Wisdom.

    It should not surprise us then that we can learn just as much from the Stoics’ lived experiences (their works) as we can from their philosophical writings (their words). The wisdom offered by Cato the Younger’s published works is scant—as a lifelong public servant, he was too busy in office and in battle to write down more than a few sentences. But the story of how he comported himself—with ironclad integrity and selflessness—amid the decline and fall of the Republic teaches more about philosophy than any essay. Along those lines, little survives to us about the theories of Diotimus, an early-first-century BC Stoic, but the legend of his literary fraud shows us how easily even righteous people can go astray. The same goes for the life of Seneca, whose eloquent letters and books survive to us at length, and yet must be contrasted with the compromises required by his job in Nero’s administration.

    And it’s not just the lives of the Stoics that teach volumes but also their deaths—every Stoic was born to die, whether it was by assassination, suicide, or, most uniquely, of laughter, as was the case for Chrysippus. Cicero once said that to philosophize is to learn how to die. So the Stoics instruct us wisely not only in how to live, but in how to face the scariest part of life: the end. They teach us, by example, the art of going out well.

    The Stoics profiled here are mostly men. This was the curse of the ancients: It was a man’s world. Still, they were diverse. The philosophers in this book hailed from the far-flung corners of the known world, from Cyprus, Turkey, Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Iraq. And though their philosophy would take root in Athens, the Stoics saw the whole earth as their country. The founder of Stoicism, Zeno of Kition, a Phoenician, would famously refuse Athenian citizenship because it conflicted with his sincere belief in cosmopolitanism. Stoicism eventually made its way to Rome, where it loomed large in Roman life,...
About the Author-
  • Ryan Holiday is one of the world's foremost thinkers and writers on ancient philosophy and its place in everyday life. He is a sought-after speaker, strategist, and the author of many bestselling books including The Obstacle Is the Way; Ego Is the Enemy; The Daily Stoic; and the #1 New York Times bestseller Stillness Is the Key. His books have been translated into over 30 languages and read by over two million people worldwide. He lives outside Austin, Texas, with his family.

    Stephen Hanselman has worked for more than three decades in publishing as a bookseller, publisher and literary agent. He is a graduate of Harvard Divinity School, where he received a master's degree while also studying extensively in Harvard's philosophy department. He lives with his family in South Orange, New Jersey.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from July 13, 2020
    Holiday and Hanselman (coauthors of The Daily Stoic) explain in this stellar work the implications of Stoic dedications to truth, wisdom, resilience, and character. The authors present the work as a series of biographies of philosophers and ground each of the 26 profiles in the virtues of courage, temperance, justice, and wisdom that Stoics believes necessary to living a happy life. They distinguish “pen and ink philosophers” (more concerned with writing than living) from the Stoics, whose central tenet is summed up best by Marcus Aurelius’s: “Do the right thing. The rest doesn’t matter.” Including profiles of Stoics who were boxers, slaves, failed merchants, Roman senators, and occasionally “iron” women, each chapter provides a brief historical context before exploring the challenges of seeking a humble life in the Stoic fashion. Rather than offering prescriptive practices, the authors believe one can “learn more from the Stoics’ lived experiences (their works) than we can from their philosophical writings (their words)”: Cynic philosopher Crates of Thebes taught Zeno to learn from humiliation; Cleanthes of Assos, a middle-aged water boy, preached stoicism at night in the streets; Chrysippius, a long-distance runner, stressed the value of meritocracy over the misjudgments of social position. This illuminating collection of biographies makes great use of Stoic wisdom to demonstrate the tradition’s values for any reader interested in ancient philosophy.

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The Art of Living from Zeno to Marcus Aurelius
Ryan Holiday
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