Norman F. Cantor



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“The Stoics taught a life of restraint and control, the personal cultivation of learning, beauty, and reason. The Stoics asked the Romans to realize that much that is encountered in life is beyond the individual’s control. Make the best of what can be humanly cultivated. It is a kind of Platonism shrunk to a pursuit of private feelings and thoughts: Do the best with what you can control and refine, and let the rest go.
“The world is rational, but it is only amenable to active intervention within the limits of the individual’s capacity. Do not try to be an overachiever. Do not dream of social transformation. Private cultivation rather than social action makes for the good life. Although the slave Epictetus was one of the principal Stoic writers, the emperor Marcus Aurelius’s upper-class background is more typical of its devotees.
“Stoicism is a narrow ethic, one suitable to the emotional and intellectual needs of aristocrat and slave alike, but less useful for the ambitious middle class.”
— Norman F. Cantor (Antiquity: The Civilization of the Ancient World)

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