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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Critical and Biographical Introduction

By Cleanthes (331–232 B.C.)

CLEANTHES, the immediate successor of Zeno, the founder of Stoicism, was born at Assos, in the Troad, in B.C. 331. Of his early life we know nothing, except that he was for a time a prize-fighter. About the age of thirty he came to Athens with less than a dollar in his pocket, and entered the school of Zeno, where he remained for some nineteen years. At one time the Court of Areopagus, not seeing how he could make an honest livelihood, summoned him to appear before it and give an account of himself. He did so, bringing with him his employers, who proved that he spent much of the night in carrying water for gardens, or in kneading dough. The court, filled with admiration, offered him a pension, which he refused by the advice of his master, who thought the practice of self-dependence and strong endurance an essential part of education. Cleanthes’s mind was slow of comprehension but extremely retentive; like a hard tablet, Zeno said, which retains clearest and longest what is written on it. He was not an original thinker, but the strength and loftiness of his character and his strong religious sense gave him an authority which no other member of the school could claim. For many years head of the Stoa, he reached the ripe age of ninety-nine, when, falling sick, he refused to take food, and died of voluntary starvation in B.C. 232. Long afterwards, the Roman Senate caused a statue to be erected to his memory in his native town. Almost the only writing of his that has come down to us is his noble Hymn to the Supreme Being.