I am Zeno, the founder of the school of stoic philosophy. My life has been dedicated to the pursuit of wisdom and virtue, and I have spent many years studying and reflecting on the nature of the universe and our place in it.

I was born in Cyprus in 334 BC, and grew up in a world rich in culture and diversity. Cyprus was a place where people from all over the Mediterranean came together to trade and exchange ideas, and I was fortunate to have been exposed to many different cultures and ways of thinking from a young age. It was in this environment that I first became interested in philosophy, and began to study the works of great thinkers such as Socrates and Plato.

However, as much as I loved life in Cyprus, I knew there was more to be learned and experienced beyond such a tiny island home. In 312 BC, I left for Athens, the intellectual centre of the ancient world. It was in Athens that I could fully immerse myself in the world of philosophy and learn from some of the greatest minds of my time.

Life in Athens

I primarily earned a living in Athens as a merchant, trading goods like linen and purple dye. However, I eventually began to focus more and more on my philosophical pursuits. I ultimately gave up my business entirely to devote myself fully to my studies and teachings.

My small circle of close friends and confidants included fellow philosophers like Crates of Thebes and Cleanthes, who would later become one of my most devoted students. I also had many acquaintances among Athens’s intellectual and political elite, including the famous statesman and orator Demetrius of Phalerum, who was a frequent guest at my lectures and discussions.

Despite my many connections and social activities, however, I was always careful to maintain a certain degree of detachment and objectivity in my interactions with others, in keeping with the stoic ideal of emotional self-control and rationality. Ultimately, my time in Athens was characterised by a deep commitment to philosophical inquiry and the pursuit of wisdom, which would remain a guiding principle throughout my life and work as a philosopher.

In addition to my interest in philosophy, I have been inspired by the natural world and its laws. The universe is ordered, interconnected, and rational. Everything in it follows a set of immutable laws, acting as independent parts of a much bigger whole. This belief is reflected in the stoic principle of determinism, which holds that everything that happens in the universe is predetermined at the moment and that we should accept our fate with equanimity, looking to improve the future.

Personal privacy is a crucial aspect of leading a virtuous life. While I recognise the value of social relationships and community involvement, it is vital to maintain a certain degree of distance between my personal life and my public persona. This is not to say that I am intentionally secretive or aloof; instead, it is essential to balance personal connections with a commitment to self-improvement and the pursuit of wisdom. As such, I have always been careful to keep my family life separate from my philosophical teachings.

Living by my teachings is a core value for me, and leading by example is the best way to do so. While some may view my private nature as a sign of coldness or detachment, I am simply striving to uphold the principles of stoic philosophy in my life. By focusing on personal virtue and self-discipline, I can better contribute to the greater good and make a meaningful impact on the world around me. My close friends and family can confirm that my philosophy extends beyond my public teachings and that I maintain a consistent approach to life both in private and public. Ultimately, personal privacy is essential for anyone seeking to lead a virtuous and fulfilling life.

Philosophical Inspiration

Despite my many years of study and contemplation, I have always been aware of human knowledge’s limitations and the universe’s vastness. I once wrote, “I know that I am intelligent because I know that I know nothing.” This humility and recognition of our limitations is a central tenet of stoic philosophy, and it is something that I have always tried to emphasise in my teachings.

Throughout my life, I have been known for my strict adherence to stoic principles and commitment to living a life of virtue and wisdom. I have written extensively on topics such as ethics, logic, and physics, and my writings have profoundly influenced generations of thinkers to come. However, I have always believed that philosophy is not just an intellectual pursuit but something that must be lived and practised daily.

As a stoic philosopher, I have always been deeply committed to the idea that we can all lead better and more fulfilling lives by living in accordance with nature and the principles of reason and virtue. The key to happiness and contentment lies not in material possessions or worldly success but in cultivating a virtuous character and a deep understanding of the nature of the universe.

Throughout my life, I have known many other great thinkers and philosophers, including many who claim to be among the greatest minds of our time. I am proud to have played a role in the development of Stoic philosophy, and I am honoured to be remembered as one of its founders, greatest advocates and practitioners.

One of my greatest inspirations was the philosopher Crates of Thebes, who introduced me to the teachings of the Cynics. The Cynics were known for their commitment to living a simple and virtuous life and believed that material possessions and social status were impediments to true happiness. Through my studies with Crates, I first became interested in philosophy, going on to found the School of Stoicism as a development of the Cynics' core ideas in later years.

Another philosopher who profoundly influenced me was Socrates, who believed that the pursuit of wisdom and virtue was the key to a good life. Socrates taught that true happiness comes not from material wealth or worldly success but from a deep understanding of the nature of the universe and our place in it. Socrates taught me that the ultimate goal of philosophy is not just to gain knowledge but to use that knowledge to live a better and more fulfilling life.

School of Stoicism

I founded the School of Stoicism in Athens in the early 3rd century BC. The school grew in popularity and influence from its humble beginnings, attracting many notable students and followers. The early days were marked by a commitment to personal growth, virtue, and philosophical inquiry. The school was initially located in a public hall in Athens, where I would gather with a small group of students to discuss my philosophical ideas and insights. The name “Stoicism” comes from the Stoa Poikile, or painted porch, where early stoics like myself would often gather to engage in philosophical discussions.

The students who listened to my lectures were typically young men from various backgrounds, including fellow philosophers, politicians, and intellectuals. My lessons were usually quite lengthy, lasting several hours at a time, and covered a wide range of topics related to ethics, logic, and metaphysics. Unlike modern university lecturers, however, I did not use PowerPoint presentations or other visual aids to illustrate my points; instead, I relied on the power of my words and ideas to captivate and inspire my students.

In some ways, the early days of the School of Stoicism were similar to a modern-day university classroom. Like a university professor, I was committed to sharing my ideas and insights with a diverse group of students and helping them to develop their personal philosophical perspectives. However, there were also some key differences. Unlike modern universities, which are often characterised by rigid academic structures and a focus on career preparation, the School of Stoicism was more concerned with personal growth and the pursuit of wisdom for its own sake. Additionally, the format of my lectures was much more conversational and informal than expected from a modern-day professor, with plenty of opportunities for questions, debate, and discussion among students.

Throughout its existence between 301 BC and 529 AD, the school of stoicism has profoundly influenced philosophy, culture, religion, and the lives of countless individuals throughout history. Its rediscovery in the 16th century means the school’s teachings can inspire and guide people daily, thousands of years after its founding.

A controlled end

I passed away in Athens in the year 262 BCE at the age of 72. When it came time for me to face my own mortality, I did so with the same sense of equanimity and acceptance that I had cultivated throughout my life. I took my own life through self-starvation, a practice known as “voluntary death” or “self-release” that was sometimes used to maintain control over one’s destiny.

The exact details of what happened to my body after my death are not known with certainty. . . I wasn’t around any more. . . but it is believed that I was cremated as per the customs of my time and the local Athenian culture.

According to one account, followers bought my body to the Stoa Poikile, the famous painted porch where I had taught for many years, cremating me there. Another report suggests that my body was cremated in a public square in Athens and that my ashes were later placed in an urn and given to my followers as a memento of my life and teachings.

Whatever the precise details, it is clear that my legacy as the founder of the Stoic philosophy has endured long after my death. While my physical body may have been consumed by fire, the ideas and principles I espoused continue to inspire and guide people worldwide to this day.

While my death may seem grim to some, it is essential to remember that the Stoic philosophy strongly emphasises accepting the natural cycle of life and death and embracing the impermanence of all things. By facing my own mortality with courage and acceptance, I want to set an example for others to follow in living a life of purpose, virtue, and inner peace.