Stoicism was a philosophy of life created by a guy called Zeno. It's called stoicism because Zeno liked to hang out at the stoas in the agora of Athens. The stoas were long, covered buildings to provide shade from the sun. When you look at any picture of the Athenian Agora, pretty much every building you see is a stoa. Stoas were, in fact, what we would call porches.
Hence stoicism in English literally means porch-ism. Or maybe verandah-ism. Which is an odd term for a philosophy which emphasized emotional & mental control, and self-discipline. Our modern word stoic comes direct from stoicism.
Zeno really hit the big time with stoicism. If he were alive today, he'd be on the lecture circuit flogging his bestseller self-help manual. Or perhaps not, because stoicism didn't encourage that sort of thing. As it was, before long, anyone with pretensions of grandeur had to claim to be a stoic, even if they patently were not.
It just so happens that Zeno's favourite hang out was the Stoa Poikile - the Painted Stoa - which by sheer coincidence happens to be the background of my book cover.
Stoicism did not appear until 160 years after The Pericles Commission. Which is just as well because Nicolaos would have made a terrible stoic.
Since I am not insane, I'm not about to teach anyone philosophy. Like Nicolaos, I would make a terrible stoic. As my wife will tell you, I have turned hypochondria into an art form, which means instant disqualification from the stoic ranks. In any case, this video will do a much better job than I could:
Probably the most famous, and certainly the most powerful, stoic ever was the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.
Marcus Aurelius is best known today for his rather unfortunate death in the movie Gladiator, at the hands of his whacko son Commodus (which may or may not be true). But his real claim to fame, other than being an amazingly good emperor, is having written The Meditations, which was a compendium of stoic philosophy.
Irene Hahn's Roman History Book Chat will be talking about The Meditations at its next online meeting this week. It meets using Google's chat system from 9:30 to 11:00 p.m. US EDT (UTC/GMT -04). If you'd like to talk about stoicism, join us! Just email Irene at the time.