The Piety of the Stoics
If I were a nightingale, I would perform the work of a nightingale, and if I were a swan, that of a swan. But as it is, I am a rational being, and I must sing the praise of God. (Epictetus, Discourses 1.16-20)
As I wrote in a previous post, many people introduced to Stoicism by twenty-first-century popularizers are surprised by the religious nature of Stoic philosophy and the deep religious piety of the Stoics. Likewise, they are unaware that numerous scholars throughout history have considered Stoicism a religious philosophy or even a personal religion. My previous post on The Religious Nature of Stoicism will provide an introduction for those interested in this topic.
While Stoicism was never a religion in the modern sense, with temples and altars, its spiritual nature evoked reverence and piety in the ancients. This personal piety is most evident in the Roman Stoics. Nevertheless, this “vivid religious sense” was there from the founding of the Stoa and already found “full expression in the well-known Hymn to Zeus.”
In the following series of posts, I will highlight the Stoic conception of the divine found in the writings of Seneca, the Discourses and Handbook of Epictetus, and the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. This will give readers a chance to see what each of these Stoics had to say about the divinity of the cosmos and its implication to living an excellent life in accordance with Nature. For those interested in this aspect of Stoicism, I recommend starting with my previous post on the religious nature of Stoicism in the links below. This post will serve as a table of contents for the series and I will add links for the remaining topics as they are posted.
- The Religious Nature of Stoicism
- The Piety of Seneca
- The Piety of Epictetus
- The Piety of Marcus Aurelius
- The Piety of Musonius Rufus – (by guest author Kevin Patrick Jr.)
 Those interested in doing their own research on the topic will find numerous scholarly references in my paper on The Religious Nature of Stoicism. http://www.societyofepictetus.org/show_PDF/TheReligiousNatureOfStoicism20150331
 Reale, G., & Catan, J. R. (1985) The System of the Hellenistic Age. Albany: State University of New York, p. 247