Although Roman philosophers emerged later than did their Greek counterparts, their influence played a pivotal role in their development. The stoics influence civilization and classical thought for many years and Romans held with the concept of holding oneself in high esteem as a part of universal nature and it was exhibited in its simplest and most genuine manner. In studying roman philosophers, one should note that the 5 most influential Roman philosophers are:
Early Roman Philosophers
Three of the most prominent early Roman philosophers were Cicero, Lucretius and Seneca. One of the first of the Roman philosophers was Cicero, a Roman diplomat who lived during the 2nd century B.C. Like many Greek and Roman philosophers, Cicero’s philosophy was based prominently on his interest in politics and the goal of influencing society on important political matters.
A witness to Caesar’s murder on the Ides of March 44 BC, Cicero was also murdered after he was marked by Caesar’s conspirators as a threat to their political objectives as well. Another prominent Roman philosopher was Lucretius who was also known as a major poet during the period in which he lived. His Greek influence was manifested by his embrace of the Epicurean philosophy developed by the Greek philosopher Epicurus. It is not surprising therefore, that one Lucretius’ best-known works, the poem “On the Nature of the Universe,” was the primary introduction of the Epicurean philosophy to Roman society. Lucretius’ command of language and speaking skills made it especially easy for him to express his philosophy in a manner that appealed to Roman listeners as well as readers.
Roman philosopher Seneca was born in Spain but was brought to Rome as child. His interests early on included the study of rhetoric. One of the first supporters of Stoicism, Seneca emphasized the importance of peace and humanitarianism. Despite the humane influence of his philosophy on Roman society, Seneca met with a tragic death, committing suicide after being accused of conspiracy against the Roman emperor Nero.
Plotinus and Marcus Aurelius represent two important strains in Roman philosophy and both had great influence on the subsequent development of western philosophy.
Plotinus was the founder of Neo-Platonism, a kind of extension of Platonic philosophy. His importance rests in part on the fact that Neo-Platonism lent itself well to Christian theology and the Christian world view. Plotinus exerted a great deal of influence on the cosmology that was adopted by Porphyry, Proclus, Dionysius the Aeropagite, and St. Augustine. The view of the cosmos seen in Dante is derived from a Neo-Platonic schema in which “up” is towards the spiritual and “down” is towards the material realm, heaven being “up” and hell being “down.”
Marcus Aurelius may not have been the most profound, but he was one of the most influential moral thinkers ever to have lived. The gentle stoicism of his Meditations has never gone out of style and will be read so long a human beings seek answers as to how they should live.