10 books like Hellenistic Philosophy

By Lloyd P. Gerson, Brad Inwood,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Hellenistic Philosophy. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Letters from a Stoic

By Lucius Seneca, Robin Campbell (translator),

Book cover of Letters from a Stoic

Seneca was one of the last of the ancient Stoics who lived during the time of Nero. Towards the end of his life, he wrote several letters to a young prefect, Lucilius. These letters were not just meant to be read by Lucilius but the generations to come as well. Seneca’s letters are well written and cover a wide range of topics as they relate to the art of living. These essays are a ‘how to’ guide to living.

Why this translation? Although there are 124 letters in all, modern translators tend to translate just a selection. Robin Campbell is no exception. I chose this translation because it is as good as any and it is not pricey.

Letters from a Stoic

By Lucius Seneca, Robin Campbell (translator),

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Letters from a Stoic as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'It is philosophy that has the duty of protecting us ... without it no one can lead a life free of fear or worry'

For several years of his turbulent life, in which he was dogged by ill health, exile and danger, Seneca was the guiding hand of the Roman Empire. This selection of Seneca's letters shows him upholding the ideals of Stoicism - the wisdom of the self-possessed person immune to life's setbacks - while valuing friendship and courage, and criticizing the harsh treatment of slaves and the cruelties in the gladiatorial arena. The humanity and wit revealed in…


The Stoics Reader

By Brad Inwood, Lloyd P. Gerson,

Book cover of The Stoics Reader: Selected Writings and Testimonia

The surviving writings of the “big three” Stoics—Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and Seneca—are the first places people turn when they want to learn about Stoicism from its original practitioners. But these three sources are missing something very important: a coherent overview of Stoic ethics. The Stoics Reader has not just one, but three such overviews from the ancient philosophical biographer Diogenes Laertius, the Stoic sympathizer Cicero, and the Stoic teacher of Augustus Caesar—Arius Didymus. This volume is one of the few places you can find an English translation of Arius’s summary of Stoic ethics, making it worth the price of purchase alone. 

The Stoics Reader

By Brad Inwood, Lloyd P. Gerson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Stoics Reader as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This volume gathers together the most important evidence about Stoic thought surviving from the ancient world. It is an expanded version of the section on Stoicism in Inwood and Gerson's Hellenistic Philosophy, consolidating related texts into larger, more continuous selections, adding material on the skeptical attack on Stoicism, and a short section that introduces the reader to some of the more interesting texts on Stoic ethics from the Roman imperial period. Inwood and Gerson provide lucid, accurate translations, an Introduction that sets the works included in historical and philosophical context, a glossary of terms, a glossary of philosophers and philosophical…


Discourses, Fragments, Handbook

By Christopher Gill, Robin Hard (translator),

Book cover of Discourses, Fragments, Handbook

Author Elif Batuman wrote of the Stoic Epictetus, he “won me over with his tone, which was that of an enraged athletics coach.” He is feisty, demanding, sarcastic, but he can be surprisingly poignant and occasionally empathetic to his audience. Epictetus himself wrote nothing; what survives was written down by a student. We therefore witness Epictetus live as he works with his own student or even when he talks with magistrates who would came to consult with him at the end of the day. Epictetus had been a slave early in life so it packs quite a wallop when he tells freeborn Romans that they have the worst kind of slavery: enslavement to external goods at the cost of their inner freedom.

Discourses, Fragments, Handbook

By Christopher Gill, Robin Hard (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Discourses, Fragments, Handbook as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'About things that are within our power and those that are not.'

Epictetus's Discourses have been the most widely read and influential of all writings of Stoic philosophy, from antiquity onwards. They set out the core ethical principles of Stoicism in a form designed to help people put them into practice and to use them as a basis for leading a good human life. Epictetus was a teacher, and a freed slave, whose discourses have a vivid informality, animated by anecdotes and dialogue. Forceful, direct, and challenging, their central message is that the
basis of happiness is up to us,…


Meditations

By Marcus Aurelius, A.S.L. Farquharson (translator),

Book cover of Meditations

Meditations is a collection of personal writings by Marcus Aurelius, a Stoic philosopher and Roman Emperor (at the other extreme, Epictetus was born a slave). The original title is unknown, and over the years many titles have be used, such as ‘The Book of Marcus’ and ‘Things to one’s self’. I suggest that the latter title, more accurately reflect its contents.

Meditations

By Marcus Aurelius, A.S.L. Farquharson (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Meditations as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A timely book for today's world, Marcus Aurelius's Meditations explores how to endure hardship, how to cope with change and how to find something positive out of adversity.

Part of the Macmillan Collector's Library; a series of stunning, clothbound, pocket-sized classics with gold foiled edges and ribbon markers. These beautiful books make perfect gifts or a treat for any book lover. This edition is translated by A. S. L. Farquharson and features an introduction by John Sellars.

The Meditations are a set of personal reflections by Marcus Aurelius. He writes about the vicissitudes of his own life and explores how…


The Therapy of Desire

By Martha C. Nussbaum,

Book cover of The Therapy of Desire: Theory and Practice in Hellenistic Ethics

Each chapter in this book wrestles with central themes of Hellenistic Philosophy, which includes Stoicism, but also Epicureanism and Skepticism. The essays are wonderfully written, and deal with pressing eternal problems, such as the political significance of anger, and the nature and pitfalls of physical pleasure. Dr. Nussbaum relates the Stoics and other Hellenistic philosophers to pressing contemporary issues and concerns.


The Therapy of Desire

By Martha C. Nussbaum,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Therapy of Desire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Epicureans, Skeptics, and Stoics practiced philosophy not as a detached intellectual discipline but as a worldly art of grappling with issues of daily and urgent human significance. In this classic work, Martha Nussbaum maintains that these Hellenistic schools have been unjustly neglected in recent philosophic accounts of what the classical "tradition" has to offer. By examining texts of philosophers such as Epicurus, Lucretius, and Seneca, she recovers a valuable source for current moral and political thought and encourages us to reconsider philosophical argument as a technique through which to improve lives. Written for general readers and specialists, The Therapy…


How to Be Content

By Horace, Stephen Harrison,

Book cover of How to Be Content: An Ancient Poet's Guide for an Age of Excess

The Roman poet Horace was influenced by Epicurean ideas and they often feature in his work. This book forms a nice introduction to Horace and his works, with carefully chosen selections in both English and the original Latin. Horace might not be the first place that someone curious about Epicureanism would look, but he’s well worth reading, both in his own right and as a Epicurean author. 

How to Be Content

By Horace, Stephen Harrison,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Be Content as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What the Roman poet Horace can teach us about how to live a life of contentment

What are the secrets to a contented life? One of Rome's greatest and most influential poets, Horace (65-8 BCE) has been cherished by readers for more than two thousand years not only for his wit, style, and reflections on Roman society, but also for his wisdom about how to live a good life-above all else, a life of contentment in a world of materialistic excess and personal pressures. In How to Be Content, Stephen Harrison, a leading authority on the poet, provides fresh, contemporary…


Letters on Ethics

By Margaret Graver, A.A. Long, Lucius Seneca

Book cover of Letters on Ethics: To Lucilius

Perhaps I’m cheating a bit on this one since I promised to recommend the best “modern” books on Stoicism and Seneca wrote his 124 famous letters almost 2,000 years ago, but since my other recommendations are Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus heavy, I wanted to make sure that any person exploring Stoicism for the first time gets a taste of Seneca too. While there are some wonderful books out there on the intriguing character of Seneca the man I’m not aware of a particular one-volume book that examines Seneca’s philosophy with the kind of depth we see in books on Aurelius and Epictetus. Besides, while the letters are ancient, this particular translation is modern and has been done by two highly-respected scholars of Stoic thought of the very first rank. They do a wonderful job (though I must admit, I first met Seneca’s Letters through the Penguin and Loeb editions and…

Letters on Ethics

By Margaret Graver, A.A. Long, Lucius Seneca

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Letters on Ethics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Roman statesman and philosopher Seneca (4 BCE-65 CE) recorded his moral philosophy and reflections on life as a highly original kind of correspondence. Letters on Ethics includes vivid descriptions of town and country life in Nero's Italy, discussions of poetry and oratory, and philosophical training for Seneca's friend Lucilius. This volume, the first complete English translation in nearly a century, makes the Letters more accessible than ever before. Written as much for a general audience as for Lucilius, these engaging letters offer advice on how to deal with everything from nosy neighbors to sickness, pain, and death. Seneca uses…


Epicureanism

By Catherine Wilson,

Book cover of Epicureanism: A Very Short Introduction

Wilson’s Very Short Introduction is a great overview of the central themes in Epicurean philosophy. If you want to learn more about Epicurean atomism, knowledge, the nature of the mind, politics, and ethics, then this book will give you a solid foundation and references to further academic reading.

Epicureanism

By Catherine Wilson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Epicureanism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Epicureanism is commonly associated with a carefree view of life and the pursuit of pleasures, particularly the pleasures of the table. However it was a complex and distinctive system of philosophy that emphasized simplicity and moderation, and considered nature to consist of atoms and the void. Epicureanism is a school of thought whose legacy continues to reverberate today.

In this Very Short Introduction, Catherine Wilson explains the key ideas of the School, comparing them with those of the rival Stoics and with Kantian ethics, and tracing their influence on the development of scientific and political thought from Locke, Newton, and…


Moral Letters to Lucilius

By Seneca,

Book cover of Moral Letters to Lucilius

Seneca lived through the reigns of all five Julio-Claudian emperors. His writings represent the most important body of primary material for ancient Stoicism. He wrote the Letters to Lucilius in his final years, intending them as his immortal legacy, prior to committing suicide on the order of Nero. The letters are an excellent entry point to Seneca, Stoicism, and philosophy in general. They collectively amount to a course in moral development and become longer and more technical as Lucilius appears to be making philosophical progress. Michel de Montaigne, the “French Seneca”, modelled his Essays upon the Letters, writing in one of them, “I have not devoted myself to any serious work except perhaps Plutarch and Seneca: but upon them, I draw as do the Danaids...”

Moral Letters to Lucilius

By Seneca,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Moral Letters to Lucilius as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Moral Letters to Lucilius is a collection of 124 letters which were written by Seneca the Younger at the end of his life, during his retirement, and written after he had worked for the Emperor Nero for more than ten years. They are addressed to Lucilius, the then procurator of Sicily, although he is known only through Seneca's writings. Regardless of how Seneca and Lucilius actually corresponded, it is clear that Seneca crafted the letters with a broad readership in mind. The letters often begin with an observation on daily life before proceeding to an issue or principle that…


Stoicism

By John Sellars,

Book cover of Stoicism

I don’t think it’s possible to practice Stoicism well without a solid understanding of what Stoicism is. It’s not a set of life hacks, but a life philosophy. This book provides a rigorous but very readable historical introduction to Stoicism as a coherent art of living by covering the three classical philosophical topics of ancient Stoicism—logic, physics, and ethics. It also provides a great historical overview, suggestions for further reading, and a handy glossary of key Stoic technical terms. If you’re looking for a single book covering the basics of ancient Stoicism, this is a great place to start.

Stoicism

By John Sellars,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stoicism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the first introduction to Stoic philosophy for 30 years. Aimed at readers new to Stoicism and to ancient philosophy, it outlines the central philosophical ideas of Stoicism and introduces the reader to the different ancient authors and sources that they will encounter when exploring Stoicism. The range of sources that are drawn upon in the reconstruction of Stoic philosophy can be bewildering for the beginner. Sellars guides the reader through the surviving works of the late Stoic authors, Seneca and Epictetus, and the fragments relating to the early Stoics found in authors such as Plutarch and Stobaeus. The…


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Interested in stoicism, epicureanism, and the Hellenistic age?

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