Stoicism was a major philosophy founded in ancient Greece by Zeno of Citium (3rd cent. B.C.). Stoicism stressed that a virtuous soul, not outward circumstances, is what mattered most in life. Stoics acknowledged that both pleasure and pain were common in life but one should try to remain attached from the ups and downs of life. Thus, a major part of Stoic philosophy was the accepting of misfortune and trials without complaint. The ideal, therefore, was to face life with a grim determination. For example, if a Stoic saw a child drowning he should do all he can to save the child. But if he failed in his attempt to save the child he would accept the outcome without feelings of remorse or pity. That is why even today when people face trials with a grim determination we often hear the statement, “He is stoical.”
The Stoics were pantheistic materialists. They assumed that “nothing incorporeal exists.” Thus, all things including the soul and God were material. Rejecting Plato’s dualistic understanding of reality, the Stoics argued for a form of monism in which everything is viewed as existing from one principle.
Stoicism is named from the Stoa Poikile or “Painted Porch” in Athens where the founders of Stoicism taught. In the 2nd and 3rd centuries B.C. Stoicism was popular among many Greeks and Romans and was held by Seneca. The last major figure to promote Stoicism was Marcus Aurelius in the second century A.D.