Standing with the Stoics for a happier world

Geoff Ward
4 min readMay 10, 2022
The statue of the philosopher Zeno in Europe Square, Larnaca, Cyprus. Photo: Pixabay.

Around 2,300 years ago, the Hellenistic philosopher Zeno of Citium in Cyprus, began teaching at the Stoa poikilē, or ‘Painted Porch’ in Athens, and the philosophical tradition of Stoicism, taking its name from the city colonnade, was born.

And the authors of a book that recently came my way, Kai Whiting and Leonidas Konstantakos, who have written Being Better: Stoicism for a world worth living in (New World Library, 2021), say that, in many ways, their undertaking is ‘a contemporary version of Zeno’s presence at the Painted Porch’, claiming that his wisdom is ‘as powerful as ever’ today as a philosophical foundation for a way of life.

Stoicism was developed in Athens by Zeno’s successor Cleanthes of Assos (b c330BCE), originally a boxer, and Cleanthes’ pupil Chrysippus (b c279BCE), who became the third head of the school after Cleanthes’ death. They, too, taught at the Painted Porch. Calling the school ‘Zenoism’ was dropped early for fear it could suggest a cult of personality.

Stoic ideas flourished in the Greek and Roman world until the third century CE, the last major figure in antiquity to give primary allegiance to them being the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius in the second century. As Neoplatonism developed and Christianity spread, so Stoicism declined, but its influence lived on, with ‘stoical’ eventually…

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Geoff Ward

Writer, journalist, book editor, poet, musician and tutor in literature and creative writing (MA and BA Hons degrees in English literature).