Why Is This Ancient Philosophy Trending?

Stoicism teaches us everything must end. But the philosophy of the Stoics has enjoyed a cultural revival in the work of self-help gurus like Ryan Holiday, who has imparted ancient wisdom in his sessions with NFL coaches, hip-hop musicians, and Silicon Valley’s elite.

In his new bestseller, Lives of the Stoics, Holiday shows how the life of the mind and the life of the laborer intersected in Greece and Rome. Take Cleanthes, who was the son of a poor man. He was a boxer, and then, to support himself, he became a water-carrier. The people of Athens called him “water-boy.”

But Cleanthes didn’t let his day job get in the way of his deepest thoughts. To him, philosophy and labor were not rivals. They were two sides of the same coin. In fact, the word that the ancients used to describe his industriousness was philoponia—a marrow-deep dedication to honest labor.

Cleanthes loved working hard not just for money, but also to improve himself. For more about Lives of the Stoics, head over to our latest Instaread.

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