Some Ancient Stoic Poems

Some Ancient Stoic Poems

Chrysippus Gesturing

[Zeno of Citium]
The cold of winter and the ceaseless rain
Come powerless against him: weak the dart
Of the fierce summer sun or racking pain
To bend that iron frame. He stands apart
Unspoiled by public feast and jollity:
Patient, unwearied night and day doth he
Cling to his studies of philosophy.

Unknown author, quoted by Diogenes Laertius

[Zeno of Citium]
Here lies great Zeno, dear to Citium,
who scaled high Olympus,
though he piled not Pelion on Ossa,
nor toiled at the labours of Heracles,
but this was the path he found out to the stars
- the way of temperance alone.

The epitaph composed for him by Antipater of Sidon, from Diogenes Laertius

[Zeno of Citium]
Thou madest self-sufficiency thy rule,
Eschewing haughty wealth, O godlike Zeno,
With aspect grave and hoary brow serene.
A manly doctrine thine: and by thy prudence
With much toil thou didst found a great new school,
Chaste parent of unfearing liberty.
And if thy native country was Phoenicia,
What need to slight thee? came not Cadmus thence,
Who gave to Greece her books and art of writing?

Another epitaph, from Zenodotus, a pupil of the Stoic scholarch Diogenes of Babylon, quoted by Diogenes Laertius

[The Stoics]
O ye who’ve learnt the doctrines of the Porch
And have committed to your books divine
The best of human learning, teaching men
That the mind’s virtue is the only good!
She only it is who keeps the lives of men
And cities, – safer than high gates and walls.
But those who place their happiness in pleasure
Are led by the least worthy of the Muses.

Athenaeus the epigrammatist, quoted by Diogenes Laertius

[Epictetus]
Slave, poor as Irus, halting as I trod,
I, Epictetus, was the friend of God.

Anonymous ancient epigram.

[The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius]
If thou would’st master care and pain,
Unfold this book and read and read again
Its blessed leaves, whereby thou soon shalt see
The past, the present, and the days to be
With opened eyes; and all delight, all grief,
Shall be like smoke, as empty and as brief.

Epigram found at the end of Vatican manuscript and in the Anthologia Palatina.

[Phaenomena]
Let us begin with Zeus, whom we mortals never leave unspoken.
For every street, every market-place is full of Zeus.
Even the sea and the harbour are full of this deity.
Everywhere everyone is indebted to Zeus.
For we are indeed his offspring…

From Aratus’ Phaenomena, quoted by St. Paul as reported in Acts (17.28)

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