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Recorded pilosophy began with pre-Socratic doubts about a pantheon of anthropomorphic gods and attempts to solve the key ingredient of the cosmos.   Thales’ prediction of a solar eclipse in 585 BC was the earliest ‘natural philosophy’ and the patterns of nature were explored in maths and geometry cf. Pythagoras who started a philosophical school – maths was only part of his exploration into the universe; Roman poet Ovid would later eulogise him in Book 15 of his epic Metamorphoses.




Socrates questioned everyone around him, to distil ‘the truth’ by mental logic.   


He was followed by his pupil, Plato who sought to discern the true forms of reality.





And then Aristotle continued their questioning search for what is Truth and how can we discern knowledge and how we should strive to a fulfilment of a life of virtue for the common good, to the best excellence that we can attain;  






Major schools of thought were the Epicureans (nothing but matter made of atoms and voids exists, death is everything), Cynics (we’re animals, let’s not struggle against that basic nature; human society is artificial) and Stoics (reason can alleviate the emotions and desires).





The Romans were especially attracted to Epicureanism (Lucretius writing his epic poem de rerum natura) and Stoicism.


Cicero and Seneca both wrote reams of philosophy, Cicero recording much of Greek philosophy for us.  Both sought and found consolation from philosophy in difficult and dangerous times).  




Neoplatonism would resurrect Plato’s philosophies with many other more moralizing aspects filtered into it and these philosophies ran alongside Christianity.  





      That’s perhaps the briefest summary of a millennium of philosophy that you will ever see!


For more info, why not try these and other Radio 4 Melvyn Bragg’s  In Our Time episodes ...






The Muddy Archaeologist’s

Classical Civilisations Resources

The Romans

Classical Literature

Epic Poetry:  Homer & Hesiod     Drama      Philosophy    Historians


The Roman Republic    Oratory    Augustan Age     Silver Age   Novel Approach   Legacies





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