Greek and Roman Philosophers, Lawgivers, Poets and Thinkers

From our present vantage point we commonly see the Greek and Roman periods running together as they do in this article. This began as a place to organize material on Greek Philosophers, but quickly expanded to the confusion you see here. The philosophers can be classified in schools that are described in the table at the below, they can also be organized Chronologically as they are in the table at the bottom. 

Additionally many look at these philosophers as purely pagan, but that has not always been the case. For example Philio (20 BC-50 AD) thought that Moses (c. 1571-1471 BC) was the inspiration and perhaps even the teacher that was responsible for much of what became Greek Philosophy. Philio is generally considered a Helenized Jew and so would not fit neatly here. He certainly was not Greek of Roman. Still from the Christian perspective much of the philosophy represented on these pages is suspect.  As Tertullian tells us.

What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem? 
What concord is there between the Academy and the church? -- Tertullian (3rd Century)

"... Tertullian asked these questions in a historical context in which other prominent Christians were finding great utility in expressing Christian ideas within a framework of Greek philosophical language and categories (Wilkens p. 9)." Still both Athens and Jerusalem figure heavily in the foundation of Western Civilization. Athens for the notions that underly much of our science and technology and Jerusalem for the notion that the law is above the king rather than the king being above the law. (The Greeks debated this point as well.)

While the Apologists would often use Greek Philosophy in their defense of Christianity it is important to note that philosophy was what most of the educated gentile population of the world of the time would know.  The notion of Original Monotheism, that all of mankind did an one point know there was one God, is reinforced by the realization of some of these philosopher that the Greek (and Roman) gods were made in the image of men. Some of them wondered if they were gods at all. The more common Christian doctrine of General Revelation, that God is manifest in His creation, would also lead one to believe that there should be some similarities between the observations and thinking of these men and the Christian message. That is the primary focus of these pages.

We begin trying to come to grips with the classification system that is often used with these folks:

School Comment
Pythagoreanism Was developed by Pythagoras (c.580 - c. 520 BC), which influenced nearly all the systems of Hellenistic philosophy that followed. No writings of Pythagoras survive. IN later writings he is sometimes represented as a man of science, and sometimes as a preacher of mystic doctrines. Two schools of Pythagorean thought eventually developed, although there was not a complete division; one based largely on mathematics and continuing his line of scientific work, while the other focused on his metaphysical teachings.

The sophists specialized in using the tools of philosophy and rhetoric for the purpose of teaching excellence, or virtue—predominantly to young statesmen and nobility. Few sophiistic texts survive so what we know is from secondary sources.

Today the word sophistry is used for lengthy argument.


The Cynics were an ascetic sect of philosophers beginning with Antisthenes in the 4th century BC and continuing until the 5th century AD. They believed that one should live a life of Virtue in agreement with Nature. This meant rejecting all conventional desires for wealth, power, health, or fame, and living a life free from possessions.

Our usage of cynic actually hearkens back to this school in the sense that the cynic rejects common conventions of religion and social order. Modern skepticism also challenges social and religious norms and is often confused with cynicism

Cyrenaicism The Cyrenaics are named for the city where they were founded. They were a hedonist school of philosophy founded in the 4th century BC by Aristippus of Cyrene, who was a student of Socrates. They held that pleasure was the supreme good, especially immediate gratifications; and that people could only know their own experiences, beyond that truth was unknowable.
Platonism Platonism is the name given to the philosophy of Plato, which was maintained and developed by his followers. The central concept was the theory of Forms: the transcendent, perfect archetypes, of which objects in the everyday world are imperfect copies. The highest form was the Form of the Good, the source of being, which could be known by reason. In the 3rd century BC, Arcesilaus adopted skepticism, which became a central tenet of the school until 90 BC when Antiochus added Stoic elements, rejecting skepticism. With the adoption of oriental mysticism in the 3rd century AD, Platonism evolved into Neoplatonism. Many claim that Neoplatonism colored Christianity.
Peripateticism The Peripatetics were members of the school of philosophers who maintained and developed the philosophy of Aristotle. They advocated examination of the world to understand the ultimate foundation of things. The goal of life was the happiness which originated from virtuous actions; keeping the mean between the two extremes of the too much and the too little.
Pyrrhonism Pyrrhonism is a school of philosophical skepticism that originated with Pyrrho in the 3rd century BC, and was further advanced by Aenesidemus in the 1st century BC. Its objective is ataraxia (being mentally unperturbed), which is achieved through epoché (i.e. suspension of judgment) about non-evident matters (i.e., matters of belief).
Epicureanism Epicureanism was founded by Epicurus in the 3rd century BC. It viewed the universe as being ruled by chance, with no interference from gods. It regarded absence of pain as the greatest pleasure, and advocated a simple life. It was the main rival to Stoicism until both philosophies died out in the 3rd century AD.

Stoicism was founded by Zeno of Citium in the 3rd century BC. Based on the ethical ideas of the Cynics, it taught that the goal of life was to live in accordance with Nature. It advocated the development of self-control and fortitude as a means of overcoming destructive emotions. Stoicism is considered by many to be the most practical of the philosophical schools. Famous Stoics include Epictetus, Cato, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius.

We often use the word "stoic" to refer to someone who is indifferent to pleasure or pain.

Eclecticism Eclecticism was a system of philosophy which adopted no single set of doctrines but selected from existing philosophical beliefs those doctrines that seemed most reasonable. Its most notable advocate was Cicero.
Hellenistic Judaism

Hellenistic Judaism was an attempt to establish the Jewish religious tradition within the culture and language of Hellenism. Its principal representative was Philo of Alexandria. Examples are Philo of Alexandria (30 BC – 45 AD) and Josephus (37–100 AD)

Neopythagoreanism Neopythagoreanism was a school of philosophy reviving Pythagorean doctrines, which was prominent in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. It was an attempt to introduce a religious element into Greek philosophy, worshipping God by living an ascetic life, ignoring bodily pleasures and all sensuous impulses, to purify the soul.
Hellenistic Christianity Hellenistic Christianity was the attempt to reconcile Christianity with Greek philosophy, beginning in the late 2nd century. Drawing particularly on Platonism and the newly emerging Neoplatonism, figures such as Clement of Alexandria sought to provide Christianity with a philosophical framework.
Neoplatonism Neoplatonism, or Plotinism, was a school of religious and mystical philosophy founded by Plotinus in the 3rd century AD and based on the teachings of Plato and the other Platonists. The summit of existence was the One or the Good, the source of all things. In virtue and meditation the soul had the power to elevate itself to attain union with the One, the true function of human beings. It was the main rival to Christianity until dying out in the 6th century.


I acquired the original list as noted at the bottom of the page without considering what its purpose was. I have since expanded the list. My purpose was to have a central place to tie information on ancient philosophers as I encountered them. Hence some have links to more detail and some do not. To use another suspect reference these pages are like the Pensieve in Harry Potter.  There are a place to store and sort ones thoughts on a matter.  As such they are likely to always be something of a muddle. The problem for the Apologist of our time is that there are many who see the Christian message as the invention of the Apologist of former times, based entirely on the thinking of men. The Christian actually believes in revelation and that the revelation should be the starting point for investigation. Most of these folks did not believe that.

During what is often called the classical Greek period (5th and 4th centuries BC.), philosophy, mythology and science often ran together. So too this list runs together. Especially in my expansion to encompass the writers of the material that we know as Greek Mythology, the Law Givers and also some of the poets.

Date Philosopher Comment
9th Century B.C.
  c.820 – 730 BC? Lycurgus Greek Lawgiver
  c. 800 - 701 BC Homer Greek Poet
8th Century B.C.
  c. 700 BC Hesiod Greek Poet
7th Century B.C.
  c. 636 - 546 BC Thales pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer
  c. 610 - 456 BC Anaximander pre-Socratic Greek Philosopher
6th Century BC
  c.580 - c. 520 BC Pythagoras of Samos Greek philosopher, founder of the Pythagorean School of philosophy and science.
  c. 508 BC Cleisthenes Lawgiver - the Father of Athenian Democracy
  died c. 502 BC Anaximenes Greek philosopher
  c. 570 - 480 BC Xenophanes of Colophon Greek philosopher
  c. 535 – c. 475 BC Heraclitus of Ephesus Greek philosopher
  c. 515 - c. 445 BC Parmenides of Elea Greek philosopher
5th Century BC
  c. 499 - c. 428 BC Anaxagoras of Clazomenae Greek philosopher
  c. 492 - c. 432 BC Empedocles of Acragas Greek philosopher
  c. 490 - c. 430 BC Zeno of Elea Greek philosopher
  c. 484 - c. 425 Herodotus Greek Historian, "The Father of History."
  c. 480 - c. 420 B.C. Leucippus Greek philosopher - Presocratic Philosophy
  480 - 411 BC Protagoras Greek philosopher & Sophist
  c. 470-c. 410 BC Hippocrates of Chios Greek geometer
  c.470 - c.385 Philolaus Greek philosopher
  c. 469 - 399 BC Socrates /a> Greek philosopher
  born c. 460 BC Democritus Greek philosopher
  c. 427 - 347 BC Plato Greek philosopher
  412 - 323 BC Diogenes of Sinop Greek philosopher
4th Century BC
  c. 380 - 330 BC Stilpo (Stilpon) Greek philosopher
  384 - 322 BC Aristotle Greek philosopher
  c. 371 – c. 287 BC Theophrastus Greek philosopher, successor to Aristotle in the Peripatetic school. Often considered the father of botany.
  341 - 271 BC Epicurus /a> Greek philosopher
  c. 360 - c. 270 BC Pyrrho Greek philosopher
  331-232 BC Cleanthes Second leader of the Stoic school
  c. 325 - 265 BC Euclid Greek mathematician
3rd Century BC - Alexander the Great dies in 323
  c. 334-262 BC Zeno of Citium Greek philosopher, Founder of the Stoic school in Athens (c. 300 BC). Famous for Zeno's paradoxes.
  c. 280 - 207 BC Chrysippus Greek Stoic philosopher. Third leader of the Stoic school. Excelled in logic, the theory of knowledge, ethics and physics.
  276 - 194 BC Eratosthenes

Greek mathematician, geographer, poet, astronomer, and music theorist.

Chief librarian at the Library of Alexandria. He invented the discipline of geography, including the terminology that is still used today.

2nd Century BC
  114 – c. 14 BC Orbilius Roman grammarian and educator
  106 - 43 BC Cicero Roman statesman and philosopher
  95 – 46 BC Cato (the younger) Roman Stoic philosopher and orator. He is remembered for his stubbornness and tenacity.
  65 – 8 BC Horace Roman Poet
  20 BC-50 AD Philio Hellenistic Jew - tried to harmonize Greek Philosophy and Jewish thought.
  4 BC - AD 65 Seneca (the younger) Roman Stoic Philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and satirist of the Silver Age of Latin literature.
1st Century AD
  AD 35 - 96 Quintilian Roman educator and rhetorician
  AD 37 – 100 AD Josephus Hellenistic Jew; Historian
  c 46 - 120 Plutarch Middle Platonist, essayist and biographer.
  AD 50 – 138 Epictetus Roman Stoic philosopher
  c. AD 85 - c. 165 Claudius Ptolemy Greek astronomer and geographer
2nd Century AD
  AD 100 - 170 Quintus Junius Rusticus Roman Stoic philosopher and teacher of Marcus Aurelius,
  AD 121-180 Marcus Aurelius Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher
3rd Century AD
  c. AD 204-270 Plotinus /a> Greco-roman philosopher - reviver of the philosophy of Plato
4th Century AD
  AD 314-393 Libanius Greek teacher of rhetoric of the Sophist school. First teacher of John Chrysostom. Even during the rise of Christianity he remained a pagan.
  AD 354-430 Augustine of Hippo Church father/theologian
  c. AD 370-415 Hypatia of Alexandria Alexandrian philosopher
5th Century AD
  AD 411 -  485 Proclus Diadochus Greco-roman philosopher and mathematician
  AD 480-525 Boethius Philosopher and Christian martyr who was called the last of the Romans.


Original list from: 9/11/11 3/11/18