Classics Roman Philosophy
Gretchen Reydams-Schils
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 January 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0042


In the ancient world, the term “philosophy” meant primarily “Greek philosophy.” Philosophy was invented and developed in ancient Greece (including Athens, Ionia, and Sicily and southern Italy) and arrived at Rome relatively late, where it met some initial resistance. The story of Roman philosophy is of the gradual adoption and adaptation of Greek philosophical doctrines by Roman authors. This article focuses on Roman philosophy from the 1st century BCE to the end of the 2nd century CE, the formative period before the Latin tradition became infused with Christianity. The designation “Roman philosophy” does not include Greek philosophy in the Roman era, not even those philosophers such as Panaetius and Posidonius who came in relatively close contact with Roman culture. From this vantage point, it is a bit of a stretch to include Epictetus, but his teacher, Musonius Rufus, belongs with the Roman tradition, and Epictetus’s work is essential for a correct understanding of Marcus Aurelius. Not all of the authors wrote or taught in Latin. Most of the Roman Stoics, in fact, and including the emperor Marcus Aurelius, wrote or taught in Greek. Editions and translations have not been included for texts that are widely available and easily accessible. The exceptions have been noted.

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