homeaccount_circle
Greek philosophersComments

Greek philosophers

Throughout the Hellenistic period Athens remained the most important center for ancient philosophy, continuing the traditions established by Plato and Aristotle.

In the 4th century BC, Plato and Aristotle had set out the essential systems of Greek thought. In moral and political philosophy they had taken their lead from Sokrates (469-399 BC), best remembered for his unyielding questioning of the nature of knowledge. Plato's Academy specialized in mathematics and astronomy, while Aristotle's Lyceum became renowned for its work in botany and zoology.

Aristotle was tutor to the young Alexander. He witnessed the rise of Macedon, the creation of Alexander's empire and the ensuing political, social and cultural upheavals.

The impact of all this was deeply felt at Athens among the intellectual descendants of Plato and Aristotle. These included Zeno (335-263 BC) and Epikouros (342/1-271/0 BC), who responded with the new philosophies of Stoicism (attuned to cosmopolitanism) and Epicureanism (attuned to individualism). Stoicism and Epicureanism endured in the Hellenstic and ensuing Roman periods.

The influence of Hellenistic Greek philosophy in the Roman world is reflected in the Roman practice of displaying portraits of philosophers, copying Greek originals, in both public and private contexts.

The heads of Antisthenes and Epikouros shown here were found near the Via Appia, south of Rome. They were part of a set that may have come from the library or garden court of a private villa. Together with the head of Chrysippos they portray a type of human intelligence, one that sought knowledge through temperance, endurance and moral incorruptibility.

sokrates british museum Sokrates. British Museum. Roman copy of a lost Greek original of about 380-360 BC. GR 1973.3-27.16 (Sculpture 1837). Image by L M Clancy 2009/08/19.
 british museum Antisthenes. British Museum. Roman copy of a lost Greek original of the late 3rd or 2nd century BC. From near the Via Appia, Rome. GR 1873.8-20.724 (Sculpture 1838). Image by L M Clancy 2009/08/19
 british museum Chrysippos. British Museum. Roman copy of a lost Greek original of the late 3rd or 2nd century BC. Bequeathed by Richard Payne Knight. GR 1824.2-1.2 (Sculpture 1846). Image by L M Clancy 2009/08/19
 british museum Epikouros. British Museum. Roman copy of a lost Greek original of the late 3rd or 2nd century BC. From near the Via Appia, Rome. GR 1873.8-20.726 (Sculpture 1843). Image by L M Clancy 2009/08/19
Philosopher Time Overview
Sokrates 469-399 BC Sokrates was the intellectual father of Hellenistic philosophy. His self-denying pursuit of knowledge brought him into conflict with the piety laws of his native Athens, where his eventual prosecution led to enforced suicide. His physical appearance was famously unattractive, belying the inner beauty of his spirit.
Plato
Aristotle
Zeno 335-263 BC Zeno developed the cosmopolitan philosophy of Stoicism.
Sokrates 469-399 BC Sokrates was the intellectual father of Hellenistic philosophy. His self-denying pursuit of knowledge brought him into conflict with the piety laws of his native Athens, where his eventual prosecution led to enforced suicide. His physical appearance was famously unattractive, belying the inner beauty of his spirit.
Epikouros 342/1-271/0 BC Epikouros developed the individualist philosophy of Epicureanism.
Chrysippos 281/77-208/4 BC Chrysippos developed the Stoic school of philosophy founded in Athens around 280 BC by Zeno.
Antisthenes 450-370 BC Antisthenes was the founder of the Cynic school of philosophy.