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Ζήνων), philosophers.

1. Of CITIUM, a city in the island of Cyprus, founded by Phoenician settlers. He was the son of Mnaseas. Some authorities assign other names to his father, but with less probability (D. L. 7.1, ib. Menag.). He is said to have been early won over to the pursuit of philosophy through books of the Socratics, which his father was accustomed to bring back from Athens when he went thither on trading voyages; and to have devoted himself to it entirely when (through the direction of an oracle, as is said) at the age of 22, or, according to others, 30 years, having been shipwrecked in the neighbourhood of Peiraeeus, he was led to settle in Athens (ibid. 2, 4, 5, 28). Whether he lost all his property in the shipwreck (Seneca, de Tranqu. Animi, 100.14; Plut. de cap. ex host. Utilitate, p. 87a), or, what is considerably less likely, remained in possession of a fabulous fortune of 1000 talents (D. L. 7.13, comp.15, 22, 5), his moderation and contentment had become proverbial (Ζήνωνος ἐγκρατέστερος, D. L. 27, &c., comp. 26, 13, 16; Suid. s. v.), and an admiring recognition of his virtues shines through even the ridicule of the comic poets (Philemon, Posidippus, &c.; D. L. 7.27, &c.; Clem. Al. Strom. ii. p. 413). Though weakness of body is said to have first determined him to live rigorously and simply (D. L. 7.1; Antig. Caryst. apud Athen. 12.2), and harden himself (D. L. 26, &c.), yet an inclination for being independent of want seems already at an early period to have come in as an additional motive, and to have led him to the cynic Crates, to whom, however, he could only attach himself with a twofold reservation; for he could not adopt either the contempt for established usages which characterised their mode of life, nor their scorn of free and comprehensive knowledge (Ibid. 3, 17, 22). Yet he seems to have been still entirely under their influence when he wrote his Πολιτεία (Ibid. 4 ; comp. Plut. de Alex. fortit. 1.6). When it was that, against the dissuasion of Crates, he betook himself to the Megaric Stilpo (D. L. 7.24. 2), we do not learn; and equally scanty are the accounts which we have respecting his intercourse with the two other contemporary Megarics, Diodorus Cronus and Philon (ibid. 16, 25, 15, 16) on the one hand, and with the Academics, Xenocrates and Polemon (ibid. 2, 35, comp. Solid. s. v.) on the other. Only from the logic of the Stoics we see that in this branch of science they approached considerably nearer to the Megarics than to the Academics. The period which Zenon thus devoted to study is extended by one unauthenticated statement to twenty years. (D. L. 7.4, comp. 2.) At its close, and after he had developed his peculiar philosophical system, to which he must already have gained over some disciples, he opened his school in the porch adorned with the paintings of Polygnotus (Stoa Poicile), which, at an earlier time, had been a place in which poets met (Eratosthenes in D. L. 7.5). From it his disciples were called Stoics, a name which had before been applied to the above-mentioned poets, and by which also the grammarians who assembled there probably at a later time were known. Previously his disciples were called Zenonians. Among the warm admirers of Zenon was king Antigonus Gonatas of Macedonia : for although the correspondence between the two, professing to have reference to an invitation of the king, which Zenon declined (D. L. 7.7, &c.), is unmistakeably the invention of a later rhetorician (see Aldobrandinus on the above passage), it is well established that a close intimacy subsisted between them, kept up through Persaeus and Philonides, disciples of the philosopher, and companions of the king (Ibid. 9. 6, 13-15, 36 ; Arrian, Epict. 3.13 ; Simplic. in Epiclet. Enchir. 100.51; Aelian, Ael. VH 9.26). Zenon is also said to have attracted the attention of the Egyptian Ptolemaeus (D. L. 7.24; in Stobaeus, Serm. xxxi. however, with reference to the same story, ambassadors of Antigonus are spoken of). Much more honourable, however, is the confidence and esteem which the Athenians showed towards him, stranger as he was; for although the well-known story that they deposited the keys of the fortress with him, as the most trustworthy man (D. L. 6), may be a later invention, there seems no reason for doubting the authenticity of the decree of the people by which a golden crown and a public burial in the Cerameicus were awarded to him, because, during his long residence in Athens, by his doctrines and his life spent in accordance with them, he had conducted the young men who attached themselves to him along the path of virtue and discretion (D. L. 10, &c., 6, 15). The Athenian citizenship, however, he is said to have declined, that he might not become unfaithful to his native land (Plut. de Stoicor. repugn. p. 1034a; comp. D. L. 12), where in return he was highly esteemed (Ibid. 6). For the rest, we have preserved some not very characteristic traits from his life, in part from the works of the elder Stoics, as Persaeus, Cleanthes, and Chrysippus (Ibid. 1, 15). From them we see that he was of an earnest, if not gloomy disposition (Ibid. 16, comp. 26; Sidon. Apollinaris, Epist. 9.9); that he loved to withdraw himself from the great crowd, and to walk about with only two or three (D. L. 14) ; that he was fond of burying himself in investigations (ibid. 15), had a dislike to prolix and elaborate speeches (ibid. 18, 22 ; Stob. Serm. xxxiv.), and was clever and ready at short telling answers. (D. L. 19, &c., 23, &c. ibid. Menag.)

We are not able to ascertain with certainty either the year of Zenon's birth, or that of his death, and cannot regard as accurate the statements that he came to Athens at the age of 22 or even 30 years, that he pursued his philosophical studies for 20 years, and presided over his school for 58 years (D. L. 28), even though we should prefer the statement that he reached the age of 98 (ibid.), to that of his disciple Persaeus, according to which he was only 72 years old when he died. He is said to have been still alive in the 130th Olympiad (ibid. 6), and this is certainly in accordance with the statements which make him a disciple of Polemon, who became president of the Academic school in Ol. 116. 2, and also with what we are told about his intercourse with Antigonus Gonatas, who came to the throne in Ol. 124, and with Arcesilas (Cic. Ac. 1.9, 13, 2.24).


Works mentioned by Diogenes Laertius

Of his writings for the most part only the titles are quoted (D. L. 4). The enumeration that we possess can hardly be complete, yet it shows us to some extent to what objects his investigations were chiefly directed. We have mention of works:

Of writings relating to physics we find mentioned:

The contents of the following seem to have been of a logical kind :

Besides these there are attributed to him works:

Philosophical Thought

The writings of Chrysippus and later Stoics seem to have obscured those of Zenon, and even the warm adherents of the school seem seldom to have gone back to the books of the latter, still less the authorities yet remaining to us. They give, and often confusedly enough, sketches of the Stoic system, but it is only as special occasions present themselves that they notice what belongs to the several framers of the system, and in what they differed from each other, and from the later Stoics. Consequently we can only determine in the general, and often merely by conjecture, how far Zenon himself had conducted the doctrine, and still less how he gradually arrived at the outlines of it. At first he appears to have attached himself to the Cynics. This is confirmed not only by the above-mentioned authorities, but by the little that has been preserved out of or respecting his Politeia (D. L. 7.32, 121, 129; Theodoret. Gr. Aff. cur. iii. p. 780; Plutarch in the above-quoted passages); and it is not unlikely that it was there that he gave occasion to the assertion of the later Stoa, that Cynism was the near way to virtue (ἐ̂ναι τὸν Κυνισμὸν σύντομον ἐπ̓ ἀρετὴν ὁδόν. D. L. 121, ibid. Menag.). In his treatises (διατριβαὶ) also there must still have been a good deal of Cynism. (Sext. Emp. ad v. Math. 11.191 ; Hypot. 3.245, comp. 205.)

The need of a foundation and completion of ethic by means of logic and physic, led Zenon to approximate to the Academics, and in some degree also to Aristotle. The threefold division of philosophy he had explained in his treatise on the Idea, and had anticipated the succession which was adopted also by Chrysippus and others,-- Logic, Physic, Ethic (D. L. 39, &c.). But he is certainly not the originator of the comprehensive schematism in which we find the logic and physic of the Stoics treated (Ibid. 84). In his treatment of logic, he was even behind his predecessors (Cic. de Fin. 4.4). His short and narrow conclusions needed a more explicit foundation to be able to withstand the objections of the Academics in particular (Id. de Nat. Deor. 2.7). To show the necessity of a scientific treatment of logic, he urged that the wise man must know how to avoid deception (Id. Acad. 2.20). Without doubt he referred our cognitions to impressions, and these to affections of the soul (ἑτεροιώσεις τῆς ψυχῆς, Sext. Emp. ad v. Math. 7.228, 230, 236), more exact definitions of which were attempted by Cleanthes, Chrysippus, and others, who deviated the one from the other, showing clearly that none such had been established by Zenon. In like manner the division of conceptions, or representations (φαντασίαι) into such as were credible (πιθαναί), incredible (ἀπίθανοι), at once credible and not credible, and such as were neither credible nor incredible; and further into true and false, &c., may very likely have been made by Zenon (Ibid. 242, &c.). It lay at the basis of the subdivision of true conceptions into comprehensible (καταληπτυξαί), i. e. demonstrable, and incomprehensible, which is referred to Zenon. (Cic. Ac. 2.6, 24.) But here also the more exact definitions are to be ascribed to the later Stoa (Sex. Emp. ad v. Math. 7.253). On the other hand Zenon had reserved for the free-will the power of assent (συγκατάθεσις) in distinguishing between the impressions communicated to the senses (Cic. Ac. 1.11), and distinguished the following stages : representation, cognition, assent, knowledge, exhibiting their relation to each other by the well-known illustration of the flat-extended hand, and the gradual clenching of the fist (Cic. Ac. 2.4, 1.11). As the ultimate criterion of truth Zenon assumed right reason (D. L. 7.54, ibid. Interp.), which Chrysippus and others, in turn, endeavoured to separate into its constituent parts.

Zenon seems to have had no share, or but very little, in the developement of the Stoic doctrine respecting the categories, conclusions, the parts of speech and rhetoric. The last could have been regarded by him only as an amplification of dialectic, according to the comparison referred to by Cicero (Orator. 32), and could hardly have appeared to him to need a separate scientific treatment. (Cic. de Fin. 4.3.)

It seems that at the lead of his Physic stood the proposition that every thing which operates, as well as every thing operated upon, is corporeal, and consequently that the actual is limited to that (Cic. Ac. 1.11). He called the substance, that is to say the basis of every thing existent, that primary matter which neither increases nor diminishes itself (Stob. Ed. Eth. p. 90; D. L. 7.150). This was in his view the intercommingling of matter, in itself passive and void of quality (ἄποιος ὕλη), and of operative power, that is of the deity (D. L. 7.134; Cic. l.c. ; Senec. Epist. 65). He saw this operative power in fire (Cic. Ac. 1.11), or aether (ibid. 2.41), as the basis of all vital activity (Cic. de Nat. Deor. 2.9, 3.14), and in this way was led to go back to the doctrine of Heracleitus. Attaching his views to that doctrine, lie taught that the universe comes into being when from fire, or through it, the primary substance passing through the intermediate stage of air, becomes liquefied, and then the thick portion becomes earth, the rarer portion air, and lastly again becomes rarified into fire (D. L. 7.142, comp. 136; Stob. Ecl. Phys. p. 320). Zenon also appropriated to himself the Heracleitean doctrine of the periodic alternation of the formation and annihilation of the universe (Stob. Ecl. Phys. i. p. 414). The more exact definition of the doctrine in this instance also belongs to his successors, as Chrysippus, Poseidonius, &c. The active or artizan-fire (τεχνικὸν πῦρ, Cic. de Nat. Deor. 2.22, comp. D. L. 7.156) must in his view have been identical with the deity ; but what Heracleitus tacitly pre-supposed, that it partakes of the world-consciousness, Zenon endeavoured to define more exactly, and to prove, substituting for the universe-ensouling power the universe itself, that is, the substance of it, or the deity, and attributing reason to it, inasmuch as on the one hand the rational (λογικόν) is better than the irrational, and on the other, that which is found in the parts must belong to the whole (Sext. Emp. ad v. Math. 9.104, 101; Cic. de Nat. Deor. 2.8). In this universe-fashioning fire there must dwell not merely a concomitant consciousness, but a foreseeing one (Cic. de Nat. Deor. 2.22), that is, the eternal deity extended throughout the whole universe, must produce (δημιουργεῖν, D. L. 7.134, 136) every thing. The doubt of Ariston, whether God could be a being possessed of life (Cic. de Nat. Deor. 1.14) seems to have been directed against Zenon's further definitions, which have not come down to us. Again, Zenon defined the deity as that law of nature which ever accomplishes what is right, and prevents the opposite (Cic. l.c.), as the energy which moves itself and operates according to the laws of impregnation (λόγοι σπερματικοί, D. L. 7.148; Cic. de Nat. Deor. 2.39), and identified it, or Zeus, with spirit and predestination, or unconditioned necessity (Stob. Ecl. Phys. 1.178; D. L. 7.88, 148, &c., 156), without detriment to the foresight and free self-determination attributed to it (Cic. de Nat. Deor. 2.22). He seems to have endeavoured to refer the different chief deities of the Greek mythology to the different fundamental modes of manifestation of the single divine primary power (Ibid. 1.14, comp. D. L. 7.147, 149). He must have regarded individual souls as being what the world-soul was; as of the nature of fire, or as warm breath (πνεῦμα ἔνθερμον, Cic. Tusc. 1.9, de Nat. Deor. 3.14, comp. Plut. de ph. pl. Decret. 4.3; D. L. 7.156), and therefore as perishable (Diog. Laert. l.c.). The threefold division of the soul attributed to him (Tertullian. de Anima, 100.14) is obscure, if not dubious. But however he may have divided it, he must have referred its different activities to one and the same fundamental power (ἡγημονικόν, Sext. Emp. ad v. Math. 9.102; comp. Euseb. Praep. Ev. 15.20).

Zenon, coinciding with the Cynics, and with equal stringency, recognised in the most decided manner the unconditional nature of moral obligations, and that only that which answers to them is valuable in itself; but departed from them partly in the deduction and definition of them, partly and chiefly in this, that by paving the way for the separation of the form and the purport or objects of our actions, he undertook, with reference to the domain of the (so-called) indifferent, to demonstrate a relative value in that which accords with natural impulses, and so to oppose the harsh contempt of the Cynics for custom, without however allowing that the gratification of mere natural wants, and the external good things which serve that end, have any value in themselves. In order to bring forward prominently the unconditional value of the moral (Stob. Ecl. Eth. p. 154) he termed it, following the example of the Eretrio-Megaric school, the single, sole and simple good (Cic. Ac. 1.16. 2) which, for that very reason, is that which alone should be striven after and praised for itself (Cic. de Fin. 3.6. 8; comp. D. L. 7.100, &c.), with the attainment of which, consequently, happiness must be coincident (Stob. l.c. p. 138). This he described as perfect unanimity of life (ὁμολοθουμένως ζῆν, Stob. l.c. p. 132, 134; Cic. de Fin. l.c.), which in its turn should manifest itself as the unhindered flow of life (εὔροια τοῦ βίου, Stob. l.c. p. 138; D. L. 7.88; Sext. Emp. Hypot. 3.172). Unanimity of life however can only be attained (so Zenon already appears to have added in discussing the point, see D. L. 7.87, &c.), in proportion as it in its turn is in complete harmony with the rest of nature. The further development and more exact definition of this subject however belongs to Cleanthes,Chrysippus, and other successors of Zenon (D. L. 7.89, &c.). Perfect unanimity of life however can only be achieved through the unrestricted dominion of right reason, that is, by our reason not only ruling unconditionally over our other energies and circumstances, but also coinciding with the universal reason--the reason which governs nature. This last is, in other words, the source of moral law, of that which forbids as well as that which commands (Stob. l.c. p. 104; comp. Plut. Stoic. Rep. p. 1037).

Since then that unvarying unanimity or consistency of soul, out of which morally good volitions and actions spring, is virtue (Stob. l.c. p. 104 Cic. Tusc. 4.15), true good can only consist in virtue (Stob. p. 90; D. L. 7.102, 127), and this being self-sufficient, can need no external good circumstances (D. L. 7.104; Cic. de Fin. 3.10; Sen. Epist. 9 ; Plut. l.c.). That, to the accomplishment or attainment of which virtue is directed, has no value in itself, but on the contrary derives value only from its being willed and accomplished morally (Stob. l.c. p. 94). And it was just at this point that Zenon felt himself constrained to deviate from the Cynics. He could not admit that things indifferent in themselves are without any value for us. On the contrary, he endeavored to point out differences which fixed the measure of their relative value. They have this, according to him, in proportion as they correspond to the original natural instinct of self-preservation (D. L. 7.85; Cic. de Fin. 3.5, 15, 4.10, 5.9, Acad. 1.16). What corresponds to that is justly preferred (is a προηγμένον), has a certain worth (ὰξία, Stob. l.c. p. 144. &100.156 ; comp. D. L. 7.105), and admits of being shown to be such, that is, of having a foundation for it established (Cic. Ac. 1.10, &c.; Stob. l.c. p. 158; D. L. 7.108). But because every thing which conduces to self preservation, like self-preservation itself, has only a conditional (relative) value, it cannot be a constituent element of happiness; the latter depends merely upon moral volition and action (Cic. de Fin. 3.13). That which is to be preferred is an appropriate thing (καθῆκον), a designation which Zenon first introduced (Diog. Laert. l.c.), and shows itself to be such by its rational foundation (εὔλογον, Diog. Laert. and Stob. ll. cc.). The appropriate, however, and its foundation, are perfect only when the latter is unconditional, that is,corresponds to unconditional requirements (a κατόρθωμα, Stob. p. 158; Cic. de Fin. 3.7, 9, 14, 17, de Off. 1.3). So long as an action can merely be justified as fit, it is a middling (μέσον) action, and has no real moral value, even though it should perfectly coincide with a truly moral action in reference to its object or purport. (Stob. p. 158; Cic. de Fin. l.c.) It is not without reason that the germ of the distinction between legality and morality has been traced in this Stoic separation of the καθῆκον and κατόρθωμα. Hence, just as morality, or virtue, can only subsist in conjunction with the perfect dominion of reason, so vice can consist only in the renunciation of the authority of right reason, and virtue is absolutely -- without any accommodation -- opposed to vice (Cic. Tusc. 4.13, Acad. 1.10, de Fin. 3.21. 4.9, Parad. 3.1; D. L. 7.127; Stob. p. 104, 116); nay, virtue and vice cannot subsist side by side in one and the same subject, can admit of no increase and decrease (Cic. de Fin. 3.14, &c.), and no one moral action can be more virtuous than another (Cic. de Fin. 3.14; Sext. Emp. ad v. Math. 7.422). All actions however are to be reckoned in, that is, all are either good or bad, since even impulses and desires rest upon free consent (Stob. p. 162, 164; Cic. Tusc. 4.9, Acad. 1.10), and consequently even passive conditions or affections, which, because withdrawn from the dominion of reason, are immoral (D. L. 7.110; Stob. p. 166; Cic. Tusc. 4.6. 14), nay, more, they are the source of immoral actions (Stob. p. 170, &c. ; Cic. de Fin. 4.38; Plut. de Virt. mor. p. 393). Zenon, therefore, had already especially concerned himself with the more exact definition of the affections, and had composed a separate treatise on them, as has been above remarked. To him belongs the fourfold division of them. He referred them to present (πρόσφατον), and therefore operative errors (false assumptions) respecting the good and the bad (Cic. Tusc. 3.3; Stob. p. 170). They must be rooted out, and not merely set aside (Cic. Tusc. 4.18, &c.), and their place must be occupied by corresponding movements of the reason. As he was the originator of the fourfold division of the affections (desire and fear, pleasure and pain : ἐπιθυμία, φόβος, ἡδονὴ, λύπη; Cic. Tusc. 4.6; Stob. p. 166, &c.; D. L. 7.110), so in all probability he also distinguished the three emotions which are according to reason (βούλησις, χάρα, εὐλαβεία,) and assumed that pain, because it is merely passive, cannot be transformed into a corresponding rational emotion. In like manner to him probably, in what is essential, belong the definitions of the four virtues, as well as the assertions, subsequently repeated to satiety, respecting the perfections of the wise man. How far he carried these out, and whether, or how far he conducted the further sub-division of the four virtues, we are not able to determine.

Polemon is said already to have given utterance to the suspicion that Zenon intended to purloin other people's doctrines in order to appropriate them to himself in a new dress (D. L. 7.25). At a later time he was frequently charged with having been the inventor not so much of new things, as of new words (Cic. de Fin. 3.2, 4.2, &c., Tusc. 5.12), and already Chrysippus had endeavoured to defend him against such charges (D. L. 7.122). But though those charges may in part have been unjust, yet even the acuteness of Chrysippus and others was not able to develop out of the doctrines of Zenon an organically constructed system, growing out of one fundamental idea, such as we find in Plato and Aristotle. Logic and physic always continued mere supplements of ethic, connected with it rather externally than internally; and the system of the Stoa, though for centuries it banded together around it the noblest spirits, to struggle against the moral corruption of the age, had not proceeded from a full and unrestricted love of wisdom, but from the impulse after a completely satisfactory mode of life. It no longer formed a member of the ever rising series of development of the philosophising spirit of the Greeks, but rather already belonged to the descending series.

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  • Cross-references from this page (12):
    • Diogenes Laertius, Vitae philosophorum, 10
    • Diogenes Laertius, Vitae philosophorum, 6
    • Diogenes Laertius, Vitae philosophorum, 7.1
    • Diogenes Laertius, Vitae philosophorum, 7.4
    • Diogenes Laertius, Vitae philosophorum, 4
    • Diogenes Laertius, Vitae philosophorum, 7.5
    • Diogenes Laertius, Vitae philosophorum, 7.7
    • Cicero, Lucullus, 1
    • Cicero, Lucullus, 11
    • Cicero, Lucullus, 16
    • Cicero, Lucullus, 24
    • Aelian, Varia Historia, 9.26
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