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The Stoics were named after the multi-colored arcade [Στοά Ποικίλη, "Painted Porch"] in Athens where they assembled. Yet Stoicism hails originally from Cyprus (to our limited knowledge of possible, earlier origins); this might explain its frequently quasi-religious tone, echoing the "spiritual" philosophies of the nearby Middle East.

The founder of the school is reputed to have been Zeno of Citium [Ζήνων ο Κιτιεύς] called thus to differentiate him from the "other" Zeno, Zeno of Elea. His primary followers were Cleanthes and, most notably, Chrysippus; by their time, the school was firmly established in Athens. Greek Stoics distinguished themselves for their virtuosity in matters of strict logic, their extraordinarily complex syllogisms, surpassing even classic, academic Aristotelians in detail of ramification, and their uncompromising, nearly inhuman idealism.

Stoicism found fertile ground in Roman circles, especially as it resonated in collectively-minded Rome with powerful relevance to Roman politics, law, and civic structures. Spanish-born, Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca was Nero's (dubiously successful) tutor, and administrator-in-chief of the Empire; Marcus Aurelius, profound student of human nature but "unorthodox" in his Stoicism, became Emperor himself. An odd figure is that of freed-man Epictetus, who codified morsels of quotidian, Stoic practical wisdom in his Encheiridion (i.e. manual, pocket-book).

Stoics were generally hostile to Epicureanism. It has been speculated that Greek Stoics might have detested the hero-worship Epicurus himself attracted, and thus that some of their hostility might have been ad hominem. Yet Roman Stoics in particular, who were chronologically and geographically detached from Epicurus himself, and were aware of his legacy through second-hand sources (perhaps the writings of Philodemus of Gadara), were more open to at least some Epicurean tenets. Marcus Aurelius does mention the "atomists" in his "Meditations", by which he certainly meant the Epicureans; and Seneca, by far the most pro-Epicurean among Stoics, made routine reference to Epicurean ethical tenets that he found wholesome and salubrious.

The broader realm of Roman philosophy, always more pragmatic and less doctrinaire than the Greek one that fathered it, was largely dominated by Stoic principles. Cicero's assault on the Stoics, while casting doubt on several key "articles of faith" for them, also inadvertently attests that the Stoics were his one, primary interlocutor in the Roman philosophical forum.

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