Zeno of Citium

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Happiness is a good flow of life.

Zeno of Citium (334 BC – 262 BC) was a Greek philosopher from Cyprus, and was the founder of the Stoic school of philosophy which he taught in Athens, from about 300 BC.

Not to be confused with Zeno of Elea


Seeing that the universe gives birth to beings that are animate and wise, should it not be considered animate and wise itself?
  • No one entrusts a secret to a drunken man; but one will entrust a secret to a good man; therefore, the good man will not get drunk.
  • Love is a God, who cooperates in securing the safety of the city.
    • As quoted in Deipnosophists by Athenaeus, xiii. 561c.
  • We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say.
    • As quoted in Diogenes Laërtius Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, vii. 23.
    • Variant translation: The reason why we have two ears and only one mouth is that we may listen the more and talk the less.
  • A bad feeling is a commotion of the mind repugnant to reason, and against nature.
    • As quoted in Tusculanae Quaestiones by Cicero, iv. 6.
  • That which exercises reason is more excellent than that which does not exercise reason; there is nothing more excellent than the universe, therefore the universe exercises reason.
    • As quoted in De Natura Deorum by Cicero, ii. 8.; iii. 9.
  • If melodiously piping flutes sprang from the olive, would you doubt that a knowledge of flute-playing resided in the olive? And what if plane trees bore harps which gave forth rhythmical sounds? Clearly you would think in the same way that the art of music was possessed by plane trees. Why, then, seeing that the universe gives birth to beings that are animate and wise, should it not be considered animate and wise itself?
    • As quoted in De Natura Deorum by Cicero, ii. 8.


  • Man conquers the world by conquering himself
    • This quote has been ascribed to Zeno on Twitter since 2015. It similarly appears in the 2018 novel, Secrets Under the Sun, by Nadia Marks. It could be a paraphrase of this line from Plato: "it is the first and best of all victories for a man to conquer himself" (Laws, i. 626E, Burges trans.). The Buddhist text, the Dhammapada, contains the line: "Greater in battle than the man who would conquer a thousand-thousand men, is he who would conquer just one—himself." (8.103)

Quotes about Zeno

  • The best exponent of anarchist philosophy in ancient Greece was Zeno (342-267 or 270 B.C.), from Kition, the founder of the Stoic philosophy, who distinctly opposed his conception of a free community without government to the state-Utopia of Plato. He repudiated the omnipotence of the State, its intervention and regimentation, and proclaimed the sovereignty of the moral law of the individual — remarking already that, while the necessary instinct of self-preservation leads man to egotism, nature has supplied a corrective to it by providing man with another instinct — that of sociability. When men are reasonable enough to follow their natural instincts, they will unite across the frontiers and constitute the Cosmos. They will have no need of law-courts or police, will have no temples and no public worship, and use no money — free gifts taking the place of the exchanges. Unfortunately, the writings of Zeno have not reached us and are only known through fragmentary quotations. However, the fact that his very wording is similar to the wording now in use, shows how deeply is laid the tendency of human nature of which he was the mouthpiece.
    • Peter Kropotkin, in "Anarchism" article in Encyclopedia Britannica (1910) "The Historical Development of Anarchism", as quoted in Anarchism: A Collection of Revolutionary Writings (1927), p. 288.
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Ancient Greek schools of philosophy
Pre-Socratic AnaxagorasAnaximanderAnaximenesDemocritusEmpedoclesHeraclitusLeucippusMelissusParmenidesProtagorasPythagorasThalesZeno of Elea
Socratic AntisthenesAristippusAristotleDiogenes of SinopeEuclid of MegaraPhaedo of ElisPlatoSocrates
Hellenistic Apollonius of TyanaAugustineEpictetusEpicurusJohn PhiloponusLucretiusPlotinusProclusPyrrhoSextus EmpiricusZeno of Citium