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Greek Philosopher Cleanthes

Updated on August 29, 2010

Cleanthes (330-231 B.C.), was a Greek philosopher, who succeeded his teacher, Zeno, the founder of Stoicism, as the leader of the Stoic school.

In early life Cleanthes had been a boxer, and he used his considerable strength for manual labor at night to earn enough to attend Zeno's lectures during the day. Accused of being an ass, he remarked, "Then perhaps I am the very one to take over Zeno's burden." At the close of his life he abstained from food so that he would not live longer than his master had.

Cleanthes was most interested in theology. He discussed such topics as the origins of religion, fate and free will, proof of God's existence, and the parallel between the microcosm (man) and the macrocosm (the universe).

He believed that in music man comes nearest to an intuition of the divine. Aside from fragments, his only extant work is the 39-line Hymn to Zeus, one of the finest expressions of Stoic pantheism.


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