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Dion of Prusa and the Later Stoics on Participation in Politics

Gretchen Reydams-Schils

Although Dion of Prusa’s work betrays more influences than strictly Stoic ones, our sources do tell us that he studied with Musonius Rufus, and scholars such as Brunt (1973) have already shown how fruitful an analysis of his speeches can be for reconstructions of Stoic viewpoints.

In this paper I will focus on the question of participation in politics, and more specifically on the challenges that such participation poses.  Dion proposes a number of strategies, which all, one way or another, end up underscoring rather than undermining the importance of such participation.

In Or. 47 Dion allows for the fact that a philosopher may choose to leave his city and fatherland if the conditions for partaking in the public life are too difficult.  But for Dion and for the later Stoics, exile, whether self-imposed or not, never leads to the abdication of one’s political responsibility.  The notion of the cosmopolis implies that one can exert this function wherever one finds oneself (cf. Vogt 2008: 65-110).

Or. 77/78 displays another strategy: one can factor in the possibility that one will fail to attain one’s goals in political life, and learn to cope with this possibility.

I intend to examine the further implications of both strategies, and to provide examples from the writings of a range of later Stoics.  This approach will provide a considerably broader perspective on the question of participation in politics than the traditional focus on the so-called Stoic opposition to the Principate (Wistrand 1979) and will also allow us to detect more clearly the connections with Hellenistic Stoicism.

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Politics by Other Means? Ethics and Aesthetics in Roman Stoicism

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