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The Roman Stoics

Self, Responsibility, and Affection

Roman Stoic thinkers in the imperial period adapted Greek doctrine to create a model of the self that served to connect philosophical ideals with traditional societal values. The Roman Stoics-the most prominent being Marcus Aurelius-engaged in rigorous self-examination that enabled them to integrate philosophy into the practice of living. Gretchen Reydams-Schils’s innovative new book shows how these Romans applied their distinct brand of social ethics to everyday relations and responsibilities.

The Roman Stoics reexamines the philosophical basis that instructed social practice in friendship, marriage, parenting, and community. From this analysis emerge Stoics who were neither cold nor detached, as the stereotype has it, but all too aware of their human weaknesses. In a valuable contribution to current discussions in the humanities on identity, autonomy, and altruism, Reydams-Schils ultimately conveys the wisdom of Stoics to the citizens of modern society.

224 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2005

Ancient Studies

Philosophy: General Philosophy


"This is a clear, engaging discussion that takes a fresh perspective on Roman Stoicism."
--Elizabeth Asmis, University of Chicago

Elizabeth Asmis

"Reydams-Schils provides a well-balanced, thoughtful, and suggestive account of Roman Stoic thought. Original and innovative, The Roman Stoics is successful in bringing out interest in Roman Stoicism for areas of contemporary concern, without any loss of historical perspective. It is an interesting and useful addition to scholarship in an area that is at the forefront of current scholarly concern and also of wider public appeal."

Christopher Gill, University of Exeter

"Reydams-Schils’s thoughtful, well-documented argument gives the lie to the ’stereotypical image of the Stoics as being cold and detached.’ Rather, Roman Stoicism in its late flowering, from Seneca and Musonius Rufus to Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, reveals itself as a difficult, challenging, indeed ’lifelong balancing act’ between self-care and involvement with others, philosophical ideals and everyday circumstances, moral reserve and personal affection—not least between husband and wife."

Kenneth J. Reckford, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

"In her fine and innovative treatment of the Roman Stoics, Gretchen Reydams-Schils shows that their theorization of the embedded self and their consistent attention to questions of practical ethics should not be interpreted as an uncritical endorsement of the social conditions of imperial Rome. Reydams-Schils highlights the egalitarian thrust of Stoicism: putting the nobility of the soul above nobility of birth, and positing an equal capacity for reason in both men and women, the Roman Stoics transcended the conventional morality of their society. Given the great significance of Stoicism for the ulterior history of European thought, this book makes a major contribution to intellectual history."

Siep Stuurman, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

"In this clear and well-argued book, Reydams-Schils studies the philosophical basis that underpins the way Roman Stoics integrated philosophy itno the social practice of living. . . . Classicists, philosophers, and a wider public interested in the issues discussed here will no doubt benefit from the reading of this excellent book. . . A very valuable (and enjoyable) contribution to Stoic scholarship."

Guillaume Dye | Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"What is particularly valuable about this book is the very attempt to map less well-explored areas of Stoic concern and the clear way in which practical ethics is related at every point to the basic physical and ethical doctrines of the Stoa."

Miriam Griffin | Scripta Classica Israelica

"Anyone interested in Stoicism at all will find the book impressive and valuable."

Eric Brown | Journal of the History of Philosophy

"Taken as a whole, the book seems to me highly successful. It offers what is, to my knowledge, the first sustained account of social ethics in Roman Stoicism. . . . The emphasis on social and familial embeddedness captures a genuine dimension of Stoicism and one that is often understated or undervalued by scholars. . . . The book is written in an accessible and informative style that will make it useful to scholars and students of Roman social history as well as ancient philosophy."

Christopher Gill | Journal of Roman History and Culture

"The Roman Stoics sets a standard for innovative approaches . . . and is a solid contribution to our growing appreciation of the uniqueness of the Roman Stoicism."

Peter J. Anderson | Classical Bulletin

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations
1. The Self as a Mediator
2. From Self-Sufficiency to Human Bonding
3. Politics, the Philosophical Life, and Leisure
4. Parenthood
5. Marriage and Community
Index of Passages Cited
General Index

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