Zeno in Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898)

The founder of the School of the Stoics, born at Citium, in the island of Cyprus. His father was a merchant, but, noticing in his son a strong bent towards learning, he early devoted him to the study of philosophy. In his mercantile capacity, the father had frequent occasions to visit Athens, where he purchased for the young Zeno several of the writings of the most eminent Socratic philosophers. These he read with great avidity; and, when about thirty years of age, he determined to take a voyage to a city which was so celebrated. Upon his first arrival in Athens, going accidentally into the shop of a bookseller, he took up a volume of the commentaries of Xenophon, and, after reading a few passages, was so much delighted with the work, and formed so high an idea of its author, that he asked the bookseller where he might meet with such men. Crates, the Cynic philosopher, happening at that instant to be passing by, the bookseller pointed to him, and said, "Follow that man." Zeno soon found an opportunity of attending upon the instructions of Crates, and was so well pleased with his doctrine that he became one of his disciples. But, though he highly admired the general principles and spirit of the Cynic School, he could not easily reconcile himself to their peculiar manners. Besides, his inquisitive turn of mind would not allow him to adopt that indifference to every scientific inquiry which was one of the characteristic distinctions of the sect. He therefore attended upon other masters, who professed to instruct their disciples in the nature and causes of things. When Crates, displeased at his following other philosophers, attempted to drag him by force out of the school of Stilpo, the Megarian, Zeno said to him, "You may seize my body, but Stilpo has laid hold of my mind." After continuing to attend the lectures of Stilpo for several years, he passed over to other schools, particularly those of Xenocrates and Diodorus Chronus. By the latter he was instructed in dialectics. At last, after attending almost every other teacher, he offered himself as a disciple of Polemo. This philosopher appears to have been aware that Zeno's intention in thus passing from one school to another was to collect materials from various quarters for a new system of his own; for, when he came into Polemo's school, the latter said to him, "I am no stranger to your Phœnician arts, Zeno; I perceive that your design is to creep slyly into my garden and steal away my fruit." Polemo was not mistaken in his opinion. Having made himself master of the views of others, Zeno determined to become the founder of a new sect. The place which he made choice of for his school was called the Poecilé (Ποικίλη Στοά), or "Painted Porch," a public portico, so called from the pictures of Polygnotus and other eminent masters with which it was adorned. This portico, being the most famous in Athens, was called, by way of distinction, Στοά, "the Porch." It was from this circumstance that the followers of Zeno were called Stoics (Στωϊκοί), i. e. "men of the Porch." Zeno excelled in that kind of subtle reasoning which was then popular. At the same time, he taught a strict system of moral doctrine, and exhibited a model of moral discipline in his own life. The Stoic School, in fact, was a branch of the Cynic, and, so far as respected morals, differed from it more in words than in reality. Its founder, while he avoided the eccentricities of the Cynics, retained the spirit of their moral teaching; and at the same time, from a diligent comparison of the tenets of other masters, he framed a new system of speculative philosophy. It is not at all surprising, therefore, that he obtained a considerable vogue, and even enjoyed the favour of the great. Antigonus Gonatas, king of Macedon, while residing at Athens, attended his lectures, and, upon his return, earnestly invited him to his court. Zeno, in fact, possessed so large a share of esteem among the Athenians that, on account of his approved integrity, they deposited the keys of their citadel in his hands. They also honoured him with a golden crown and a statue of bronze. Among his countrymen, the inhabitants of Cyprus, and with the Sidonians from whom his family was derived, he was likewise highly esteemed. In his person Zeno was tall and slender; his aspect was stern, and his brow contracted. His constitution was feeble, but he preserved his health by great abstemiousness. His food consisted only of figs, bread, and honey; yet his table was frequently honoured with the company of great men. He paid more attention to neatness in his personal appearance than did the Cynic philosophers. In his dress, indeed, he was plain, but this is not to be imputed to avarice, but to a contempt of external magnificence. He showed as much respect to the poor as to the rich, and conversed freely with persons of the meanest occupations. He had only one servant, or, according to Seneca, none. Although Zeno's sobriety and continence were even proverbial, he was not without enemies. Among his contemporaries, several philosophers of great ability and eloquence employed their talents against him. Arcesilaüs and Carneades, the founders of the Middle Academy, were his professed opponents. Towards the close of his life, also, he found another powerful antagonist in Epicurus (q.v.), whose temper and doctrines were alike inimical to the severe gravity and philosophical pride of the Stoic sect. Hence mutual invectives passed between the Stoics and other sects. Zeno lived to the extreme age of ninety-eight, and at last, in consequence of an accident, put an end to his life. As he was walking out of his school he fell down, and in the fall broke one of his fingers. He was so affected by this with a consciousness of infirmity that, striking the earth, he exclaimed, Ἔρχομαι, τί μ̓ ἀΰεις; "I am coming, why do you call me?" and immediately went home and strangled himself. He died B.C. 264. The Athenians, at the request of Antigonus, erected a monument to his memory in the Ceramicus. His writings, of which a list is given by Diogenes Laertius (vii. 4), have all been lost. They treated of the State, and of the Life according to Nature. For his doctrines, see Zeller, Stoics, Epicureans, and Skeptics (1870), and the articles Philosophia; Stoïci.

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