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Publisher's Summary

Dominated to this day by the sprawling white marble complex of the Acropolis, Athens is a city which is immensely and rightly proud of its past. For a period of roughly three centuries, the polis of Athens stood, if not in a position of unchallenged supremacy among the cities of ancient Greece, then at the very least among its three most important polities. Its fledgling empire, though small by the standards set by Alexander, the Romans, or even by those of its ancient enemy Persia, nonetheless encompassed cities as far afield as Asia Minor and southern Italy, a remarkable fact considering such expansion was achieved by the inhabitants of a single city and its immediate surroundings, rather than by an entire nation.

Most importantly, in virtually all fields of human endeavor, Athens was so much at the forefront of dynamism and innovation that the products of its most brilliant minds remain influential and relevant to this day. In the field of medicine, the great physician Hippocrates not only advanced the practical knowledge of human anatomy and caregiving, but changed the entire face of the medical profession. 

The most famous philosophers of Athens - men like Aristotle, Socrates, and Plato - interrogated themselves with startling complexity about the nature of good and evil, questioned the existence of divinity, advocated intelligent design, and went so far as to argue that all life was composed of infinitesimal particles. Great architects and sculptors such as Phidias produced works of art of such breathtaking realism and startling dynamism that they later formed the driving force behind the resurgence of sculpture during the Renaissance and served as masters to artists such as Michelangelo, Bernini, and Donatello. The plays of dramatists such as Aristophanes not only displayed an acerbic wit and a genius for political satire so pronounced that their works continue to be performed, they also served as the inspiration for playwrights like Shakespeare. And this does not take into account the host of equally brilliant mathematicians, natural philosophers, historians, astronomers, and politicians that the city’s great schools nurtured and produced. 

Although the school of philosophy started by Socrates and championed by Plato and Aristotle continues to be the most famous, other schools of thought began to branch, including the Epicureans and Cynics. In the third century BC, Stoicism arose in response to and under the influence of these older schools, combining many of the best theories from each into a more cohesive whole. With a greater flexibility and more practical application to everyday life, Stoicism quickly became a very popular school of thought, a growth made exponential by its introduction to the Romans. 

Unlike other philosophies, Stoicism could and did appeal to all classes, and two of its most famous practitioners exemplified this perfectly, one a slave and one an emperor. Due to its widespread appeal and application, as well as its compatibility with basic doctrines, Stoicism was often a natural partner in the rise of Christianity, and thus it remained a popular topic throughout European history and into the present day. Indeed, the true endurance of Stoicism comes from its very real ability to transform lives and allow its practitioners to experience a contentment with their lives that can otherwise be hard to achieve. 

Stoicism: The History and Legacy of the Influential Ancient Greek Philosophy examines how Stoicism developed, what it teaches, and how it affected people over thousands of years.

©2021 Charles River Editors (P)2021 Charles River Editors

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