Aquila:Adherents of Roman Philosopy (Nova Roma)

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This article is from the Nova Roma publication "Aquila".

It would appear that this forum is not an altogether popular one, so with the long silence on this net, I shall venture forward to present some further basic ideas on philosophy. On two previous occasions those who considered themselves to be experts on the subject attempted to provide an understanding of the basics of Roman Philosophy, to me, but I fear that their very advanced understanding of the subject was far above my rather plebian understanding of such.

From my recent readings on the subject, I have gleaned the following facts. The early Roman suspicions directed at the hilosophies of the Greeks, at first resulted in a ban of those ideas in Rome, but slowly the subject began to be accepted by the Romans. At first, two such philosophies dominatd Roman thinking as a whole. These were the philosophies of Stoicism and Epicureanism.

Stoicism apparently was founded as a Greek school of thought by a Greek philosopher known as Zenno sometime during the 3rd century B.C. This school of thought, in the Roman world, was dedicated to the ideas in this school of Senaca The Younger. The basic belief was that in the devine plan for this world that the predetermination of any individual was unvarying in the part an individaul was to play. The only variation that enjoyed a freedom within that paradigm was the manner in which the determned part was to be played. As a result those who followed the Stoic belief, were proponents of the idea that what ever was offered by providence in one's life should be acknowledged and accepted, either good or bad in status and in involvement. The Stoics were also panthiests, believers in pantheism, which is a doctrine that the universe, taken or conceived as a whole, is God. There are also those who believe that there is no God, but the combined forces and laws which are manifested in the existing universe. A second evaluation of this belief is extant in the worship of Gods of different creeds, cults, or peoples indifferently.

The second of the two more popular Philosophies appears to have been Epicureanism a school of thought founded by Epicurius, a Greek Athenian philosopher living at about 300 BC. This school of thought is revealed to us through the medium of the writings of Lucretius.

This school of thought assured the race of man, that the Gods were not interested in the punishment or reward of mankind either individually or as a whole due to the fact that they dwelt perpetually in a state of mortal bliss. Therefore, there was nohing to fear from death, which was a natural element of existance, or from the Gods to whom one looked for example.

In the Greek world the school of thought founded by Plato was trongly regarded, and remained an influence of strength on the Greek culture. However, Romans , being who they were, tended to strip away many of the more mystical aspects of the Platonic ideas and replaced them with a sketiscism of intellect, which had the effect of replacing with probabilities the absolute certainty of Plato The Platonic belef centered itself around two main ideas:

  • The aspect that was the element of improvement built into the human animal, and that

improvement could be maintained;

  • The supreme element of human life was the human intelligence or intellect.

In future work in this area, I shall be pleased to direct my thoughts to these schools of thought, and perhaps as my understanding does so, expand my horizons. All here are invited to comment on my conclusions, but I caution all here that my abilities at this point to absorb new schools of thought and detailed corrections centering on a variety of individual beliefs will not help me a geat deal, as the laborious research into each name and school often carries with it a laborius process which is less like fun / interest, and much more like work!


1.American Encyclopaedia.

2.Encyclopaedia Britannica.

3.Adkins and Adkins, "Handbook To Life In Ancient Rome; Howatson, M.G., ed. "The Oxford Companion To Classical Literature, 2nd Ed., Oxford University Press, 1989.

4.Meredith, A., "Later Philosophy"In J. Boardman (et al), "The Roman World," pp 288-307, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1986.

5.Shelton, J.A., "As The Romans Did, A Source Book In Roman Social History," Oxford University Press, New York, 1988.

Marcus Minucius Audens

Editor "Aquila"

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