31 December 2023

Cleanthes: The Stoic

Cleanthes was a prominent Stoic philosopher who succeeded Zeno as the second head of the Stoic school. He is known for his dedication to the principles of Stoicism and his influential role in shaping the school's teachings.

Life and Background

Cleanthes was born in Assos, a city in the Troad, around 330 BCE. He originally worked as a water-carrier, a physically demanding and humble occupation. Cleanthes' early life reflects the Stoic emphasis on endurance, self-discipline, and resilience in the face of adversity.

Cleanthes could not have been the express image of Zeno, if he had merely heard his lectures; he shared in his life, saw into his hidden purposes, and watched him to see whether he lived according to his own rules.

  • Seneca

Teachings and Contributions

Cleanthes embraced the Stoic philosophy and made significant contributions to its development. He emphasized the importance of living in accordance with nature, cultivating virtue, and maintaining inner tranquility. Cleanthes advocated for the practice of logic, physics, and ethics as essential components of Stoic wisdom.

Famous Works and Legacy

Cleanthes is best known for his Hymn to Zeus, a poetic composition that expresses Stoic beliefs and praises the unity and order of the universe. His writings and teachings have had a lasting impact on the development of Stoic thought and continue to inspire modern practitioners of Stoicism.

Relationship with Zeno

As Zeno's devoted student and eventual successor, Cleanthes played a pivotal role in preserving and expanding the teachings of Stoicism. His close association with Zeno contributed to the continuity and influence of Stoic philosophy during the Hellenistic period.

Influence and Reverence

Cleanthes' commitment to the principles of Stoicism and his embodiment of its values earned him respect and admiration among his contemporaries. His enduring influence on Stoic philosophy underscores the enduring relevance of his teachings in the pursuit of wisdom and virtue.

Written by


Max Thiell

Max writes is a online stoicism content writer. He is passionate about making stoicism accessible for everyone.