write an article on Stoicism vs Epicureanism. It needs to be at least 1500 words.
These two modes of thought – Stoicism and Epicureanism – are expressed to some degree by the characters Maximus the warrior and Marcus Aurelius the Caesar in the film Gladiator. Although it’s somewhat difficult to tease out of the brief time the two characters discuss their ideas, Maximus emerges as the Epicurean, and Marcus Aurelius appears as the Stoic. To gain a firm understanding of these two philosophies in order to compare how these two characters saw the world, it is necessary to understand how they differ from each other, but also how they are similar.
Stoicism was founded by three early thinkers – Zeno of Citium in Cyprus (344-262 BC), Cleanthes (d. 232 BC), and Chrysippus (d. ca. 206 BC). “Chrysippus was particularly prolific, composing over 165 works, but we have only fragments of his works. The only complete works by Stoic philosophers that we possess are those by writers of Imperial times, Seneca (4 BC-65 AD), Epictetus (c. 55-135) and Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121-180) and these works are principally focused on ethics” (Baltzly, 2004).
If it hadn’t been made clear by the film, the fact that this emperor was a major contributor to Stoic literature reinforces the concept that he is representing this level of thought among the Romans. On the surface, Stoicism emphasized the idea that the true sage, in his zealous pursuit of wisdom, would find all the happiness he could want in his knowledge and subsequent inner tranquility. The ultimate source of this tranquility is achieved through the fire of the soul as it becomes connected with the fire of God, who permeates everything.
Because they felt that the laws of nature were absolute and that the essential nature of humans was the reason, they felt people could do no other than ‘life according to nature.’ This is demonstrated by Marcus in the film through his calm acceptance of his daughter’s strength, his son’s weakness, and the logical truth that a man with the army at his back could command even the ambitious whims of his male child. His belief that Maximus could change Rome is founded on these Stoic beliefs because Maximus is a warrior who will complete any order he is given.
Marcus Aurelius completely discounts external conditions as being a threat to his goals.