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From the bestselling authors of The Daily Stoic comes an inspiring guide to the lives of the Stoics, and what the ancients can teach us about happiness, success, resilience and virtue. Nearly 2,300 years after a ruined merchant named Zeno first established a school on the Stoa Poikile of Athens, Stoicism has found a new audience among those who seek greatness, from athletes From the bestselling authors of The Daily Stoic comes an inspiring guide to the lives of the Stoics, and what the ancients can teach us about happiness, success, resilience and virtue. Nearly 2,300 years after a ruined merchant named Zeno first established a school on the Stoa Poikile of Athens, Stoicism has found a new audience among those who seek greatness, from athletes to politicians and everyone in between. It's no wonder; the philosophy and its embrace of self-mastery, virtue, and indifference to that which we cannot control is as urgent today as it was in the chaos of the Roman Empire. In Lives of the Stoics, Holiday and Hanselman present the fascinating lives of the men and women who strove to live by the timeless Stoic virtues of Courage. Justice. Temperance. Wisdom. Organized in digestible, mini-biographies of all the well-known--and not so well-known--Stoics, this book vividly brings home what Stoicism was like for the people who loved it and lived it, dusting off powerful lessons to be learned from their struggles and successes. More than a mere history book, every example in these pages, from Epictetus to Marcus Aurelius--slaves to emperors--is designed to help the reader apply philosophy in their own lives. Holiday and Hanselman unveil the core values and ideas that unite figures from Seneca to Cato to Cicero across the centuries. Among them are the idea that self-rule is the greatest empire, that character is fate; how Stoics benefit from preparing not only for success, but failure; and learn to love, not merely accept, the hand they are dealt in life. A treasure of valuable insights and stories, this book can be visited again and again by any reader in search of inspiration from the past.


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From the bestselling authors of The Daily Stoic comes an inspiring guide to the lives of the Stoics, and what the ancients can teach us about happiness, success, resilience and virtue. Nearly 2,300 years after a ruined merchant named Zeno first established a school on the Stoa Poikile of Athens, Stoicism has found a new audience among those who seek greatness, from athletes From the bestselling authors of The Daily Stoic comes an inspiring guide to the lives of the Stoics, and what the ancients can teach us about happiness, success, resilience and virtue. Nearly 2,300 years after a ruined merchant named Zeno first established a school on the Stoa Poikile of Athens, Stoicism has found a new audience among those who seek greatness, from athletes to politicians and everyone in between. It's no wonder; the philosophy and its embrace of self-mastery, virtue, and indifference to that which we cannot control is as urgent today as it was in the chaos of the Roman Empire. In Lives of the Stoics, Holiday and Hanselman present the fascinating lives of the men and women who strove to live by the timeless Stoic virtues of Courage. Justice. Temperance. Wisdom. Organized in digestible, mini-biographies of all the well-known--and not so well-known--Stoics, this book vividly brings home what Stoicism was like for the people who loved it and lived it, dusting off powerful lessons to be learned from their struggles and successes. More than a mere history book, every example in these pages, from Epictetus to Marcus Aurelius--slaves to emperors--is designed to help the reader apply philosophy in their own lives. Holiday and Hanselman unveil the core values and ideas that unite figures from Seneca to Cato to Cicero across the centuries. Among them are the idea that self-rule is the greatest empire, that character is fate; how Stoics benefit from preparing not only for success, but failure; and learn to love, not merely accept, the hand they are dealt in life. A treasure of valuable insights and stories, this book can be visited again and again by any reader in search of inspiration from the past.

30 review for Lives of the Stoics: The Art of Living from Zeno to Marcus Aurelius

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sebastian Gebski

    I don't want to be rude, but I can't help the following observation: RH has got the brilliant idea of "re-inventing" the stoicism in XXI century "for masses" and currently he's milking the cow (mass-producing neo-stoicism books). RH is a smart person and not a bad writer, but ... it feels like the milk has almost run out ... "Lives of the Stoics" is a rather dry collection of short bios of key Stoic philosophers of ancient world. Obviously, there are no new facts, no new theories, no new observat I don't want to be rude, but I can't help the following observation: RH has got the brilliant idea of "re-inventing" the stoicism in XXI century "for masses" and currently he's milking the cow (mass-producing neo-stoicism books). RH is a smart person and not a bad writer, but ... it feels like the milk has almost run out ... "Lives of the Stoics" is a rather dry collection of short bios of key Stoic philosophers of ancient world. Obviously, there are no new facts, no new theories, no new observations, just grabbing content from available sources and rephrasing it for a modern, layman reader. The book has no depth, the historical layer is very stripped (it's even mentioned in the appendix, how RH has cut out everything that could scare off anyone not interested in the history itself), there's honestly very little to get out of this book. Honestly, it would make much more sense to pick any historical (academical) essay on Marcus Aurelius, Cicero or Seneca.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Gary Moreau

    This book is a history of Stoicism. More accurately it is a compilation of mini-biographies of the most famous Stoics from Zeno (334 BCE – 262 BCE) to Marcus Aurelius (121 AD - 180 AD), the Platonian philosopher king, as well as Cicero, Cato the Younger, and Porcia Cato the Iron Woman, among others. Stoicism is built around four virtues: “Courage, Temperance, Justice, [and] Wisdom.” And that’s pretty much it. There are no rituals, no sacred text, and no organized institution of worship. There wer This book is a history of Stoicism. More accurately it is a compilation of mini-biographies of the most famous Stoics from Zeno (334 BCE – 262 BCE) to Marcus Aurelius (121 AD - 180 AD), the Platonian philosopher king, as well as Cicero, Cato the Younger, and Porcia Cato the Iron Woman, among others. Stoicism is built around four virtues: “Courage, Temperance, Justice, [and] Wisdom.” And that’s pretty much it. There are no rituals, no sacred text, and no organized institution of worship. There were recognized “leaders”, Zeno being the first, but they didn’t have offices or official duties, as Stoics at least. They were teachers, authors, politicians, and generals. Aurelius even became Emperor. They were considered philosophers, but few resembled philosophers as most of us think of that moniker today. The word philosophy has had an extremely fluid and often imprecise etymology over the centuries. The first definition offered by Webster’s today is “all learning exclusive of technical precepts and practical arts.” At the time of Newton, however, science and philosophy were used synonymously. During the early days of Stoicism, “Zeno divided the curriculum of Stoicism into three parts: physics, ethics, and logic.” The meaning of stoicism has changed as well. “The word ‘stoic’ in English [today] means the unemotional endurance of pain.” To the Stoics, however, Stoic was all about the active pursuit of virtue and justice. It was a pro-active quality, not a defense mechanism. There was/is an emphasis on listening. “Zeno said that we were given two ears and one mouth for a reason…” And it was forward looking. We die the day we are born in the sense that the time already past in our lives is not something we can do anything about. We can only try harder, pursuing to improve that which we can control and accepting that which we can’t. Don’t worry about the rules, just do it, to adopt a modern commercial tag line. The other distinguishing characteristic of Stoicism is the emphasis on the common good, not self-interest. Many Stoics went into politics out of a sense of obligation, not a grab for power and wealth. Stoicism is a way to live that no Stoic has ever fully achieved, however, although some of the Stoics described clearly led virtuous lives by any standard. But not perfect. Many were born into wealth and privilege. Nearly all accepted the institution of slavery (one of the most famous Stoics had been a slave) and the brutality of war. But, as the authors conclude, “Most of all, the Stoics taught us by the fact that they tried.” I was often reminded of Confucius (551 BCE – 479 BCE) throughout the book and he is referenced a few times. Confucius lived during a tumultuous time in the history of China. Neighboring fiefdoms were at constant war and Confucius was ultimately called upon to help sort it all out. He concluded that peace could never be fully maintained by the armed agents of the state (i.e. the police or the military). As soon as that authority leaves, as lethally as it may be armed, the mayhem would return. He understood, quite correctly, that self-restraint is the only weapon against constant bedlam and that self-restraint would only take hold if there was a value system of peace and cooperation shared by all. And for him that value system turned on the internalization of values and behaviors built on an inviolate sense of obligation to others. (Pretty Stoic, I think.) It is a worthy set of values, to be sure. But not always easy to live by 24/7. There are contradictions in every philosophy and belief system. A devout Stoic, Rusticus had a Christian who did no more than follow his faith put to death. Not because he found him deserving – he didn’t - but because that was the law of Rome at the time. And Seneca, one of history’s most famous Stoics, was a tutor and advisor to Nero, perhaps the most deranged and ruthless leader of all time. But why write this book now? Stoicism remains an active, if inconspicuous, philosophy among many, including some in positions of political power. Well, there is little possible debate that America today is starting to look a lot like Rome before its collapse. Greed, corruption, and the pursuit of self-interest at the expense of the common good are in abundant supply. And these are, in fact, the antithesis of the virtue and justice that Stoicism stands for. If only we had three ears and four eyes and could look away from our technology for just a moment we’d see it. In the end this is a very good book and very well written by two authors who are eminently qualified to write it. I didn’t give it a 5 only because that didn’t seem like the Stoic thing to do. Just kidding. I would have liked to see more philosophical exploration of why the four virtues are the right ones, but that is admittedly a failure of my own expectation, not the authors’ promise, which they deliver fully on. Read it. You will learn much from the lives portrayed.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Matt Hutson

    2.5/5 I'd say the only reason why you might pick up this book is if you are extremely interested in the stoic philosophy history. Each chapter focuses very briefly on each stoic philosopher recorded in history. Like every other Ryan Holiday book, he mixes the lessons in with the stories. So if you want to get anything practical from this book you have to pay attention very closely to each of the individual stories. The thing this book did very well was to paint a big picture of all the stoic philo 2.5/5 I'd say the only reason why you might pick up this book is if you are extremely interested in the stoic philosophy history. Each chapter focuses very briefly on each stoic philosopher recorded in history. Like every other Ryan Holiday book, he mixes the lessons in with the stories. So if you want to get anything practical from this book you have to pay attention very closely to each of the individual stories. The thing this book did very well was to paint a big picture of all the stoic philosophers, where they came from, and what it really means to live as a stoic. Stoicism is extremely interesting to me, so I did find Value in the book and I think you will too. But if you want more depth I'd recommend reading the individual writings of Seneca or Marcus Aurelius. Holiday mentions several other writings that I suppose you could search out as well. To me, I would much prefer reading a book like Stillness is the Key or Ego is the Enemy as it relates directly to modern times. I believe these other books are Ryan's best work whereas this one falls more on the side of nice to read but not essential.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Raymond

    I liked this book more than I thought I would. Its a collection of moral biographies of the 26 major Stoic figures of Ancient Greece and Rome from Zeno to Marcus Aurelius. Each chapter focused on one Stoic figure however the chapters do overlap because earlier Stoics influenced later Stoics either by being their teachers or through their writings (it would have been nice to have a Stoic family tree to see all the connections). It was interesting to learn that the Stoics wrote hundreds of books, I liked this book more than I thought I would. Its a collection of moral biographies of the 26 major Stoic figures of Ancient Greece and Rome from Zeno to Marcus Aurelius. Each chapter focused on one Stoic figure however the chapters do overlap because earlier Stoics influenced later Stoics either by being their teachers or through their writings (it would have been nice to have a Stoic family tree to see all the connections). It was interesting to learn that the Stoics wrote hundreds of books, many of which have been lost to history. This book does a good job of showing the good and not so flattering traits of each philosopher. For example, Diotimus is mostly known for writing numerous letters slandering the founder of the Epicureans.  Cicero had one of the most interesting and strong chapters. I had no idea he was so sheisty! Unfortunately he was not a philosopher that actually lived out the ideas and virtues that he wrote about. Seneca may have been my favorite Stoic to read about. He was similar to Cicero in that he sought out fame and wealth. The biggest difference is that Seneca was the Emperor Nero's tutor and a pretty bad one at that. Seneca tried to teach Nero how to be a good person but his teachings never got through to the evil leader. The only redeeming quality about Seneca is that alot of his writings are still widely read today. Epictetus and of course Marcus Aurelius were the other Stoics who I enjoyed learning more about.  You don't need to have a strong background in Greek/Roman history or Stoic philosophy to read this book. Its accessible to all readers and it will definitely encourage them to read some of the works that these philosophers wrote.  It's not what you say that lives on after your time; it's not what you write or even what you build. It's the example that you set. It's the things that you live by. -Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman, Lives of the Stoics

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lucas Jarche

    I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Ryan Holiday; I’ve been subscribed to his newsletter for about a year now. On the one hand I like what he’s doing and appreciate the chance to get to think about some new aspect of life every day. On the other hand, I don’t think he’s a very strong writer and I’m often left wanting him to just quote the relevant passages and then shut up. All the interesting quotes I’ve flagged in this book are him quoting someone else. Couple that with some persiste I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Ryan Holiday; I’ve been subscribed to his newsletter for about a year now. On the one hand I like what he’s doing and appreciate the chance to get to think about some new aspect of life every day. On the other hand, I don’t think he’s a very strong writer and I’m often left wanting him to just quote the relevant passages and then shut up. All the interesting quotes I’ve flagged in this book are him quoting someone else. Couple that with some persistent marketing tactics that seem at odds with the very lessons he tries to teach (I get it, he’s got to make money), and a very American-centric view on the world … sometimes I consider unsubscribing. He’s got this habit of starting chapters and paragraphs with what my technical writing professor likes to call ‘bad beginnings’. Like “It’s undeniable that…” or “Everyone knows that …” or “There’s no dispute about the fact that …” or “It’s hard to argue with …” etc. Albeit mercifully it’s less apparent in this book than it is in his newsletters. He also likes to restate things in threes. He says the same thing once, twice, again. Just saying it again in different words a few times. See what I did there? It’s even more apparent when he’s asking rhetorical questions or assuming what emotions we readers are feeling. His whole attitude has this self-help guru, silicon-valley influencer, side-hustle vibe that doesn’t really lend itself to deep analysis. Still, I think he’s probably a very nice guy in real life. I thought this book would be the best book of his to read because it’s not really him explaining anything, it’s just some information I wanted collated into one handy book. Lives of the Stoics accomplished pretty much all that I wanted it to. It gave me a brief run-down on the important stoic philosophers and saved me compiling that information from a handful of ‘stodgy old tomes’. And while his quirky titles that he gives them wasn’t my favourite technique, I can’t help but grudgingly admit that they helped crystallize them into distinct personalities, though I get the feeling he took a few liberties there. Understandable. But I still couldn’t get over his writing. He loves asides and parentheticals. I counted once (p104-105): six sentences in a row with an aside offset by dashes, commas, or parentheses. None of them are really required, and they often interrupt the flow of the sentence. I’m not a fan of how he always tries to add his two cents after a quote. Like when he quotes a metaphor that says stoicism is like blood/bones/soul, he adds “Perfect metaphor because stoicism is a philosophy meant to be lived as a human being”. What does that even mean? Living as a human being is the only way to live. The definition of philosophy is a system for living or understanding, only humans create philosophies, of course we’re going to live them as human beings. Or when he just adds “indeed” like on p.133. His prose is the opposite of elegant or sparse, taking so many pages to say what could often be said in a couple of sentences. Some chapters only really have one idea but he still manages to drag it out for several pages. He uses passive voice when active voice would be far less awkward. There are unclear pronouns that reference an ‘it’ that’s only defined in the previous paragraph. It’s this weird mix of overly formal then immediately casual writing with abrupt references to supposedly famous American figures thrown in abruptly and without preamble. Loved the content, did not love the execution. I’ll probably still look at it occasionally for reference.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Laura Noggle

    Might read this one again. Working on my second year through The Daily Stoic. "There is no better definition of a Stoic: to have but not want, to enjoy without needing.” "'Since the parts of philosophy are inseparable from each other, yet plants are distinct from fruit and walls are separate from plants, he claimed the simile for philosophy should rather be a living being, where physics is blood and flesh, logic the bones and sinews, and ethics the soul.' It's the perfect metaphor for the Stoics to Might read this one again. Working on my second year through The Daily Stoic. "There is no better definition of a Stoic: to have but not want, to enjoy without needing.” "'Since the parts of philosophy are inseparable from each other, yet plants are distinct from fruit and walls are separate from plants, he claimed the simile for philosophy should rather be a living being, where physics is blood and flesh, logic the bones and sinews, and ethics the soul.' It's the perfect metaphor for the Stoics too, because philosophy is meant to be lived as a human being." "No one can take away our ability to remain undaunted." "It’s an example that should challenge every talented and brilliant person: You owe it to yourself and to the world to actively engage with the brief moment you have on this planet. You cannot retreat exclusively into ideas. You must contribute." “It’s only in our modern reactionary, divisive focus on 'privilege' that we have forgotten how much we all have in common as human beings, how we all stand equally naked and defenseless against fate whether we possess worldly power or not.” “Don’t explain your philosophy,” Epictetus said, “embody it.” "A book given. A book read. Such a simple exchange, but done between the right two people at the right time—as it was here—can be enough to change the world."

  7. 5 out of 5

    Bianca A.

    Written by authors who are pioneering and riding the modern revival of stoicism as a trendy method of thinking and manifesting yourself. Although skeptical about the authors, I do not resent the modern revival of stoicism itself, as I find it worthy to be put on a pedestal and analyzed. The book offers a cool summary of the lives of some important philosophers and their words. Funnily enough, the book reminded me of David Goggins who has probably not himself heard of stoicism yet, since he alway Written by authors who are pioneering and riding the modern revival of stoicism as a trendy method of thinking and manifesting yourself. Although skeptical about the authors, I do not resent the modern revival of stoicism itself, as I find it worthy to be put on a pedestal and analyzed. The book offers a cool summary of the lives of some important philosophers and their words. Funnily enough, the book reminded me of David Goggins who has probably not himself heard of stoicism yet, since he always advocated for the renunciation of comforts in order to find yourself and live truly. I enjoyed the discussion on stoicism paradoxes through the lens of Cicero, as well as the story of Seneca's hypocrisy and Marcus Aurelius' true example. I think the book only took flight because of three reasons: good marketing, colloquial language and perhaps even the mentioning of the woman stoic, as most of the content is just a bunch of references put together on the topic of stoicism which has been done in other books and thus is in my opinion over-recycled.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kristina

    The stoicism tenets of courage, justice, wisdom, and temperance fascinate me. This account is organized in detailed, succinct biographies of the better known names in the stoicism movement---Cato, Cicero, Marcus Aurelius all receive their due. I philosophy fangirled a few times.

  9. 4 out of 5

    kartik narayanan

    Watch it on Youtube or hear the Podcast or read the full review at my blog Digital Amrit tl;dr: 'Lives of the Stoics' teaches us about applying Stoicism to our daily lives through the telling of the stories of the various philosophers who helped shape it. This book is a series of mini-biographies of about twenty-five philosophers who were instrumental in creating, defining, challenging and evolving Stoicism. They range from the creator Zeno to Chrysippus the codifier, from Cicero the avowed non-stoi Watch it on Youtube or hear the Podcast or read the full review at my blog Digital Amrit tl;dr: 'Lives of the Stoics' teaches us about applying Stoicism to our daily lives through the telling of the stories of the various philosophers who helped shape it. This book is a series of mini-biographies of about twenty-five philosophers who were instrumental in creating, defining, challenging and evolving Stoicism. They range from the creator Zeno to Chrysippus the codifier, from Cicero the avowed non-stoic but who followed its tenets, to Seneca the author and historian, from Epictetus the free man...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Trey

    I’m a Ryan Holiday fanboy. No shame. Dude writes books that are life changing. This one is perfect for a guy like me who has read along each year as he releases something new. He’s helped me unlock my inner student. Philosophy has become my daily practice, so these bite sized biographies on the men and women who are part of the tradition I’ve been adopted into, are a perfect compliment to that habit. I chose to read slowly. Deliberately. Pen in hand. Not sure I’ve annotated a work more than this I’m a Ryan Holiday fanboy. No shame. Dude writes books that are life changing. This one is perfect for a guy like me who has read along each year as he releases something new. He’s helped me unlock my inner student. Philosophy has become my daily practice, so these bite sized biographies on the men and women who are part of the tradition I’ve been adopted into, are a perfect compliment to that habit. I chose to read slowly. Deliberately. Pen in hand. Not sure I’ve annotated a work more than this one. It’s inspiring, instructive and well researched. It’s not overly drawn out. I feel ready to tackle Plutarch.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sandeep Chandran

    A wonderful introduction to stoicism and it's philosophers... Great effort by the authors to compile vast information together A wonderful introduction to stoicism and it's philosophers... Great effort by the authors to compile vast information together

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tim O'Neill

    This a great introduction to the history of the original Stoic school, from its origins with Zeno through to its culmination and apogee in the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. It is not meant to be an original contribution to historical analysis; more of a popular overview using - as Plutarch did - the lives of the greatest Stoic thinkers to illustrate how this important school of thought arose and developed. For those, like me, for whom the names of key figures like Chrysippus or Musonius Rufus h This a great introduction to the history of the original Stoic school, from its origins with Zeno through to its culmination and apogee in the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. It is not meant to be an original contribution to historical analysis; more of a popular overview using - as Plutarch did - the lives of the greatest Stoic thinkers to illustrate how this important school of thought arose and developed. For those, like me, for whom the names of key figures like Chrysippus or Musonius Rufus have always been something of a chronological jumble, this book lays out how each influenced the next and how they stood in relation to each other. Like all of Holiday's books on Stoicism, the emphasis is on the application of the philosophy to living a good life, so the lessons of each thinker's life, their successes and their failures are given practical articulation. But this is not a work of hagiography. Seneca and Cicero, for example, are praised for some things, but the examples of where they fell short of their ideals are highlighted as lessons as well. The eternal applicability of Stoic principles also comes through all of the biographies. Reading this in 2020 in the light of Covid-19, I was struck by how often pandemics, their impact and the strain they put on people and societies came up in the stories of these thinkers. I suspect people living through other difficulties would notice other, different perpetual themes. A good introduction to the history of this influential philosophy.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Josh King

    2.5/5 I’m a fan of Stoic philosophy and also a fan of Ryan Holiday’s work. I feel many people are introduced to the Stoic ways by Holiday (others probably through Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations). When this book came out I was very interested - finally an accumulation of all the Stoics in history and what they contributed to the philosophy. I was wrong. I believe I was mislead in what this book was about - it truly is just “Lives of Stoics” and not “The Art of Living...” as the sub title suggests. Th 2.5/5 I’m a fan of Stoic philosophy and also a fan of Ryan Holiday’s work. I feel many people are introduced to the Stoic ways by Holiday (others probably through Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations). When this book came out I was very interested - finally an accumulation of all the Stoics in history and what they contributed to the philosophy. I was wrong. I believe I was mislead in what this book was about - it truly is just “Lives of Stoics” and not “The Art of Living...” as the sub title suggests. The book reads as short chapters summarizing each famous Stoic’s life. I was hoping to read Stoic insights and philosophies thought by each individual and what they contributed to Stoicism - not just where they were born, how awesome Cato was, how bad Nero was , and how they died. I take notes when reading books like these, writing down passages that resonate with me. I grabbed a brand new pen for this one. I grew more and more upset as the Introduction had more notes written down than half the chapters about the Stoics. I feel this book may have just been a money grab in trying to market the term “Stoicism”. There’s not much more to say or learn after you’ve read the works of the main Stoics I presume. I do feel if I knew the premise of this book before going into it I would have rated it higher. Although, the book blurb even further cements my intuition of what I presumed the book was about, so it misled from the get go. I do not feel 90% of the mini-biographies given will help me utilize Stoicism, as the book never even fully explains Stoicism (you must read Ryan Holliday’s other books I presume...interesting). I guess if you are new to Stoic philosophy, don’t start with this book. If you want to read mini-biographies on Stoics, that relate to Stoicism as a whole maybe 40% of the time, then this is for you

  14. 5 out of 5

    David D. Knapp, Ph.D.

    I consider myself a Stoic, so I love reading the works of Ryan Holiday. "Ego is the Enemy," "The Obstacle is the Way," and "Stillness is the Key" are among my favorite nonfiction books. And I reflect upon "The Daily Stoic" each day. Therefore, you may be surprised that I gave this latest work of his only three stars. (I debated between three and four, ultimately settling on three.) It's not that I didn't like "Lives of the Stoics." I did. However, I think this work focused too much on the personal I consider myself a Stoic, so I love reading the works of Ryan Holiday. "Ego is the Enemy," "The Obstacle is the Way," and "Stillness is the Key" are among my favorite nonfiction books. And I reflect upon "The Daily Stoic" each day. Therefore, you may be surprised that I gave this latest work of his only three stars. (I debated between three and four, ultimately settling on three.) It's not that I didn't like "Lives of the Stoics." I did. However, I think this work focused too much on the personal histories of the Stoics he featured - and not enough on how we could apply the philosophies of these ancient thought leaders. It's that application discussion that I cherish so much in his other works, so finding it lacking a little in this one was somewhat disappointing. Still, I liked this book. I just didn't love it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Edwin Setiadi

    I began reading this book with a relatively good knowledge on Stoicism, after reading the 3 "main books" of Meditations, Discourses, and Letters, while adding Enchiridion and On the Shortness of Life into the "ancient" mix. For the modern Stoicism I have read books written by several authors including what many consider as the "main 3 modern philosophers" of Donald Robertson, Massimo Pigliucci, and of course Ryan Holiday with his Obstacle, Ego, and Stillness, while I have been reading The Daily I began reading this book with a relatively good knowledge on Stoicism, after reading the 3 "main books" of Meditations, Discourses, and Letters, while adding Enchiridion and On the Shortness of Life into the "ancient" mix. For the modern Stoicism I have read books written by several authors including what many consider as the "main 3 modern philosophers" of Donald Robertson, Massimo Pigliucci, and of course Ryan Holiday with his Obstacle, Ego, and Stillness, while I have been reading The Daily Stoic in its 4th cycle for this year. This, of course, not to mention all the Daily Stoic e-mails, all the podcasts on Stoicism, and the many wonderful articles on Stoicism on Medium. Hence, when I start reading this book immediately after its release date on 29 September 2020, my instant reaction was finally a biographical book on the lives of the Stoics that I've been reading so much about! A book that shows how the Stoic practices were being implemented by the greats. I cannot help but feeling like Star Wars fans when watching Episode 1 for the first time and saw that many Jedi Warriors in action, or more precisely, when I open the book I feel like a little girl wearing princess dress in Disneyland. I took my time reading it though. Oh no no no, I'm not going to read it like the last time I read Ryan Holiday’s book (devoured it in 4 days and poof the magic was over before it even began). So I savour it, pace it, and enjoy slow reading it very much. And 26 Stoics biographies become 26 days of different role models to meditate from, with one Stoic philosopher a day inspiring me in more ways than I had imagined. First and foremost, there's Zeno’s acceptance on destiny and how to make the best out of his situation. Cleanthes' hard working ethic, industriousness, quick wit, and integrity. Diogenes’ diplomatic skills. Antipater’s kindness and personal approach to his surroundings, and his philosophy on marriage and kids. The awesome Scipionic circle and the way Panaetius embedded Stoicism into the Roman Republic life. And Helvidius Priscus’ bravery to speak his mind. Then there's the unflinching moral standing of Rutilius, “the last honest man in Rome”, despite his corrupted surrounding in the Roman high rankings (one virtue that bite him back real hard, which is even a greater lesson to learn on how to deal with personal injustice). Thrasea’s steely courage as an opposition senator to Mad dictator Nero, and the way he deals with the grave injustices around him. Cato's daughter Porcia, whom as a Stoic herself can withstand so many losses and uncertainties with only her philosophy as her bedrock of sanity. And ultimately for me, how Chrysippus developed his Stoic mentality from his running days (which, as a runner my self, makes him the perfect role model for me) and ever the great researcher and writer, how he codified all the Stoic lessons as well as diligently learn from rival schools to perfecting his defend of Stoicism. The fact that Cornutus inherited a full 700 of Chrysippus’ books when Persius died speaks volume on Chrysippus’ industriousness. While Chrysippus remains my favourite Stoic, there are some others that really at par: The brilliance and endless curiosity of polymath Posidonius and the way he makes observations, gather data and use the data, while especially useful for me is his views on the corrupted world of politics (he advised many great men, including the great Roman general Pompey whom even travelled to Rhodes to meet Posidonius for advice). Moreover, there’s everyone’s favourite philosopher Cato, with his integrity, brevity, oratory brilliance, and the way he live his life that embodies the perfect Stoic character whom practices Aristo's idea of being indifferent to everything but virtue. There are also Athenodorus and Arius whom become the advisors of Rome’s first emperor Octavian, which thanks to these men's advises Octavian was able to turn Rome from bricks to marbles. There’s Musonius Rufus, “the Roman Socrates”, a great embodiment of the four virtues of Stoicism whom teaches the importance of hard work and endurance, and always try to find opportunities to do good wherever he was and no matter the circumstance (which serendipitously, the very morning I read the chapter about him was the day I had to make one of the most defining decisions in my life, and it could not go any smoother thanks to the brief but powerful lessons about him). And of course everybody's favourite teacher Epictetus, whose biographical chapter I highlighted the most, and the embodiment of Plato’s philosopher-king Marcus Aurelius. But then there’s Cicero. While he never claim to be a Stoic, he trained under one (Posidonius), he took care of the blind Stoic Diodotus, commented in one of his writings that the Stoics are the true philosophers, and it is through his writings that much of what we know about Stoicism in the ancient world survives. And it shows how much influence he had on Stoicism just by the long coverage in this book as the only non-Stoic Stoic biography that could easily mistaken as one of Robert Greene’s coverage. What’s with all the associations but never the actual label of a Stoic? It is simply because he also studied under teachers from every school during his 2 years in Athens, to gain wisdom and knowledge from all of them. And it shows immediately from reading this chapter that his behaviour is nowhere near Stoic-like. The book also perfectly illustrate the conflicts and infighting within the school of Stoicism, with the argumentative and boldness of Aristo challenging the very cornerstone of Stoic philosophy established by Zeno and solidified by Cleanthes. And I love the fact that the Stoics were not perfect human beings whom also struggle with their own demons just like the rest of us, just like the story of Diotimus, or the one error of judgement that made an otherwise flawless Junius Rusticus forever remembered in history as the Stoic that prosecute a Christian, or the un-Stoic like advice by Stoic philosopher Arius to emperor Octavian to kill his enemy's child to secure the throne (but then again Arius provide us with the best summary of Stoicism's 4 virtues).  I also find hard to digest Plautus’ non-action against Nero’s smear and aggressive attacks, confused whether that’s a very Stoic temperance for something outside his control or a lack of courage and a passive acceptance of Amor Fati. And of course there’s the ever conflicting Seneca. While his thinking reflect a Stoic way of thinking, his actions proof otherwise. For example, being a disciple of the frugal school once led by Cleanthes he can throw lavish parties using money he get from his murderous boss. Of course, Ryan Holiday never claim that the Stoics were perfect human beings, and in fact one way or another all of them eventually violate the lessons of Stoicism to varying degrees. That’s just the imperfect human nature. Nevertheless, for every flawed Stoic there are several tremendous ones that reflect the four virtues of wisdom, temperance, courage, and justice. Two biographies stands out for me as badass examples of this attitude. First, the story of Agrippinus, with his bravery in the era of 2 corrupt and violent emperors Claudius and Nero, which become one of the role models for none other than Epictetus. His clear principles are indeed admirable, and his temperance in facing his own injustice and banishment is one of the most memorable key moments in Stoic history. He indeed did not add to his troubles by bemoaning them, nor did he compromise his composure or his dignity for any matters whether big or small. And second, the story of Julius Canus, whom was playing chess with a friend while awaiting to be executed by Emperor Caligula, when the guard came to execute him. He then joked to his friend saying “you will testify that I was one piece ahead” and calmly went on to his death chamber with no fear as if it’s just a regular daily task. Ultimately, the Stoics were not some people wearing robes sitting idly talking about theories. But they’re merchant, long distance runner, wrestler, senator, military general, slave, governor, teacher, mayor, even emperor. They were real people with real-life jobs trying to function in a broken and chaotic society. This is where this book stands out from the rest of the pact, as we get to see the Stoic philosophy directly implemented in action, through 26 different personalities in an environment not that different than ours. I have a bucket list to someday travel from Cyprus to Greece all the way to Rome following the steps of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Stoa. I expect to found almost no statue or historical artifact of Stoicism, however, as that would not be very Stoic of them (no ego-boosting statues, no trail of extravagant riches, etc). But instead I would be walking in the streets where these great philosophers once walked, and inspired the way they were inspired in their own respective times. And when that faithful day comes, what better book to bring and re-read along the journey than this one? A pure masterclass by Ryan Holiday, as always.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dane Cobain

    I picked this book up after hearing about it on BookTube, which was a happy little coincidence because I’d already been getting into stoicism after being introduced to it by my girlfriend. I just wish I could remember whose channel I saw the video on. What we have here is essentially a cracking little introduction to the key figures of stoicism in ancient Rome and Greece, and it’s written by a well-known figure in contemporary stoic circles. In fact, at the same time that I ordered this book, I a I picked this book up after hearing about it on BookTube, which was a happy little coincidence because I’d already been getting into stoicism after being introduced to it by my girlfriend. I just wish I could remember whose channel I saw the video on. What we have here is essentially a cracking little introduction to the key figures of stoicism in ancient Rome and Greece, and it’s written by a well-known figure in contemporary stoic circles. In fact, at the same time that I ordered this book, I also subscribed to a bunch of Stoic YouTube channels, and it turns out that the host of one of them is one of the authors of this book. I found it to be super accessible, with the story told slowly but surely through short chapters on some of the key figures of the Stoic movement. After a while, it gets a little difficult to remember who was who, but that doesn’t really matter. The important thing here is the lessons that are on offer, and the interesting thing about the figures that are profiled is that as well as writing about and teaching their beliefs, they also lived them. All in all, it’s a pretty accessible read whether you’re new to stoicism or not, and if you’ve been looking to learn more about the philosophy then this is a pretty good place to look. I enjoyed reading it, and I also ended up tabbing out half of the pages for my video review, which meant that I had a lot to say about it. It’s definitely food for thought. Now that I’ve read this, I’m keen to learn more about stoicism, and I’m also looking forward to watching some more of the author’s videos. You should give it a Google and check out both the book and the YouTube channel.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Gabriel

    Anything Ryan writes on the stoics and their teachings im always quick on the up take. This book was no different and might possibly be one of the best books he’s done. The stoics lives are cast before us and we get to hear of how they were faced with trials and challenges and the way they choose to deal with them. Like all humans they had faults, a craving for fame and wealth, fearful in the face of death or their anger or ego getting in the way. We all make bad decisions and even then we can st Anything Ryan writes on the stoics and their teachings im always quick on the up take. This book was no different and might possibly be one of the best books he’s done. The stoics lives are cast before us and we get to hear of how they were faced with trials and challenges and the way they choose to deal with them. Like all humans they had faults, a craving for fame and wealth, fearful in the face of death or their anger or ego getting in the way. We all make bad decisions and even then we can still practice and aim to put into action the right things which most of these stoics did. Some stoics I didn’t know much about prior who I was most adoring of now would be Cato, Rufus and Epictetus. Men of great spirit and knowledge, rhetoric and courageous beyond measure. Stoics have valuable teachings to live by and still today enrich the lives of those who read their writings.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I hadn't really thought of the lives of the Stoics as an example to us of their philosophy until I listened to this audiobook. It helped bring to life figures who lived roughly two thousand years ago, and it illustrated just how much human nature has remained the same over a long period of time. They struggled with the same problems and questions back then as we do now. They were a truly varied lot, from slave to emperor, from those born into privilege to those who worked just as hard as they st I hadn't really thought of the lives of the Stoics as an example to us of their philosophy until I listened to this audiobook. It helped bring to life figures who lived roughly two thousand years ago, and it illustrated just how much human nature has remained the same over a long period of time. They struggled with the same problems and questions back then as we do now. They were a truly varied lot, from slave to emperor, from those born into privilege to those who worked just as hard as they studied. It was easy to see myself in some of them, and it gave me hope that I, too, could lead a good life as they did.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mohamad Kalaaji

    Unlike Ryan's other books, this books includes small autobiographies of some of the well known stoics that played a major (and sometimes crucial) role in Stoicism. But not to burst your bubble this is not like his previous books where Ryan would use stoic methods to solve an issue or reach to a certain goal, this book is more oriented to the people who want to know about the history of Stoicism but don't know where to start as it serves as a good starting material. Than again it is a good book, wo Unlike Ryan's other books, this books includes small autobiographies of some of the well known stoics that played a major (and sometimes crucial) role in Stoicism. But not to burst your bubble this is not like his previous books where Ryan would use stoic methods to solve an issue or reach to a certain goal, this book is more oriented to the people who want to know about the history of Stoicism but don't know where to start as it serves as a good starting material. Than again it is a good book, would recommend it to someone who is interested in Stoicism or history.

  20. 5 out of 5

    QUINNS

    Stoicism guides us the virtues of courage and justice and implores us to do our part in politics for the greater good. Although the founding fathers of Stoicism did not always live up to their own philosophy, but through their lives and their mistakes, we could learn about the value of selfless integrity and the hangers of vanity and decadence.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Teejay

    I'm a fairly recent addition to the school of Stoicism and have found Holiday's books a great avenue to learning. This is a great read for anybody looking to learn bits of Stoic philosophy and some history along the way. I'm a fairly recent addition to the school of Stoicism and have found Holiday's books a great avenue to learning. This is a great read for anybody looking to learn bits of Stoic philosophy and some history along the way.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Niklas Heer

    It is inspiring to read about the people who pioneered a philosophy that still is so useful today after over 2000 years. This book manages to look at the person rather than the philosopher and put their actions into context with their teaching. It also gives you a good sense of the connections between the different stoics and the timeline. I recommend this book to everyone who already knows what stoicism is and wants to go deeper.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Zhivko Kabaivanov

    Lives of the Stoics (2020) explores Stoicism through the lives of its earliest followers. Packed with insights into the leaders, wars, and politics of classical antiquity, these blinks provide a fresh yet historical look at this popular philosophy.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sergiu Telbisz

    Clear and inspirational. I finally have an universal perspective in regards to Stoicism. I have been reading the ancient texts but this book helped me see it all in a wider view angle. Thank you Ryan!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Taylor Woodson

    As a lover of Stoicism I found the most interesting parts of this book were not about stoic philosophy in theory but in practice. About the Roman leaders such as Julius Caesar and the evil emperor Nero and how the stoics responded to their corruption.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas

    There are great anecdotes of philosophers, but also very much Roman history. If you like both of these, check it out... I don’t like both of these.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Megan Polley

    I enjoyed the contents of the book. Warning to those who choose the audiobook, RH is a terrible narrator of his own book, I would have preferred to read a physical copy or have a different narrator.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ties

    A good overview of the important stoics without delving too deep into any of them. I appreciated this restraint as I'm reading this not as a history book but to expand my understanding of stoic philosophy. I think Ryan got that just right here. I read other books on specific emperors/philosophers but somehow I didn't get the gist like the authors present it here. Which is great and makes this book a valuable read for anyone interested in the stoics. The only thing I'm still wondering: how much mor A good overview of the important stoics without delving too deep into any of them. I appreciated this restraint as I'm reading this not as a history book but to expand my understanding of stoic philosophy. I think Ryan got that just right here. I read other books on specific emperors/philosophers but somehow I didn't get the gist like the authors present it here. Which is great and makes this book a valuable read for anyone interested in the stoics. The only thing I'm still wondering: how much more was there? If this is all that survives, how many great thinkers, men and women, are lost? Why not five stars? It doesn't feel like it brings something new to the table, just some rare remarks on modern 'stoics' in the form of American presidents or generals. To me, that would be the work I'd buy immediately, a book on actual, practicing stoics (in one degree or another) from modern times. Ranging from sports, to business and politics for example. Are you reading this Ryan? ;) please look further than the us and its recent history if you do write this book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Enzo Santos

    It took me about 50 pages to get into the rhythm of reading the book with a proper understanding. It’s definitely a further step into the world of Stoicism if you have read Ryan’s previous books - Obstacle + Ego. He’ll take you through biographies of different minds and how Stoicism as a Philosophy was crafted through decades of input from different people. It was passed on to different minds who would preach to tens or hundreds, lived its values day-to-day, or simply wrote about it, split from It took me about 50 pages to get into the rhythm of reading the book with a proper understanding. It’s definitely a further step into the world of Stoicism if you have read Ryan’s previous books - Obstacle + Ego. He’ll take you through biographies of different minds and how Stoicism as a Philosophy was crafted through decades of input from different people. It was passed on to different minds who would preach to tens or hundreds, lived its values day-to-day, or simply wrote about it, split from it because of different understandings, and passed it on to the next generation. Reflection: 1) The stoics mentioned in the book were put into exile at some point in their lives. During this time in isolation from the capital of Rome, they spent it writing and reflecting. It seems like the “Isolation” and “quarantine” we are experiencing now is very similar to that of the stoics. 2) Stoicism revolves around action and politics. Stoics were advisors to kings; however, despite their influence, most of the kings (in the book) were horrible and outright evil. You see people today who act as advisors for presidents who end up making horrible judgment calls. I’m not sure how I feel about stoicism in this regard.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Cesar

    This book was a page turner. At the very least will get you interested and reading further on the actual works of the stoics, Roman history or Plutarch's bios... Or all of them, even if just one of those happen, you may consider this a good investment. This book was a page turner. At the very least will get you interested and reading further on the actual works of the stoics, Roman history or Plutarch's bios... Or all of them, even if just one of those happen, you may consider this a good investment.

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