Panaetius ( _el. Παναίτιος) of Rhodes, lived c. 185 - c. 110 BC), was a Stoic philosopher, and head of the Stoic school in Athens. He wrote extensively on Ethical topics, and did much to introduce Stoic doctrines to Rome.


Panaetius, son of Nicagoras, descended from a family of long-standing celebrity, was born in the island of Rhodes. [Suda, "Panaitios."; Strabo, xiv.] He is said to have been a pupil of Crates of Mallus, who taught in Pergamum, [Strab. xiv.] and after that he moved to Athens, where he attended the lectures of Critolaus and Carneades, but attached himself principally to the Stoic Diogenes of Babylon, and his disciple Antipater of Tarsus. [Suda "Panaitios."; Cicero, "de Divinatione", i. 3.]

Probably through Gaius Laelius, who had attended the lectures of Diogenes and then of Panaetius, [Cicero, "de Finibus", ii. 8.] he was introduced to Scipio Aemilianus Africanus, and, like Polybius before him, [Suda, "Panaitios", comp. "Polybios".] gained his friendship, [Cicero, "de Finibus", iv. 9, "de Officiis", i. 26, "de Amicitia", 5. 27, comp. "Orat. pro Murena", 31.] and accompanied him on the embassy which he undertook, two years after the conquest of Carthage, to the kings of Egypt and Asia in alliance with Rome (143 or 141 BC). [Vell. Pat. i. 13. § 3; Cicero, "Academica", ii. 2; Plutarch, "Apoplith."] He returned with Scipio to Rome, where he did much to introduce Stoic doctrines and Greek philosophy. He had a number of distinguished Romans as pupils, amongst them Quintus Mucius Scaevola the augur and Quintus Aelius Tubero. After the murder of Scipio in 129, he resided by turns in Athens and Rome, but chiefly in Athens, where he succeeded Antipater of Tarsus as head of the Stoic school. [Cicero, "de Divinatione", i. 3] The right of citizenship was offered him by the Athenians, but he refused it. His chief pupil in philosophy was Posidonius. He died in Athens [Suda. "Panaitios."] sometime before 109 BC, in which year Licinius Crassus found there no longer Panaetius himself, but his disciple Mnesarchus. [Cicero, "de Oratore", i. 11.] Neither the year when Panaetius was born, nor the age when he died, is stated; all we know is that he composed the books "On Duties" thirty years before his death, [Cicero, "de Officiis", iii. 2, after Posidonius.] and that in those books mention was made of Scipio, as it seems, as being already dead. [Cicero, "de Officiis", i. 26, ii. 22.] He could scarcely have been much older or younger than Scipio, (lived 185-129 BC).


With Panaetius began the new eclectic shaping of Stoic theory; so that even among the Neoplatonists he passed for a Platonist. [Proclus, "in Plat. Tim."] For this reason also he assigned the first place in philosophy to Physics, not to Logic,Diogenes Laërtius, vii. 41] and appears not to have undertaken any original treatment of the latter. In Physics he gave up the Stoic doctrine of the conflagration of the universe; [Cicero, "De Natura Deorum", ii. 46, comp. 142; Stobaeus, Ecl. Phys. i.] endeavoured to simplify the division of the faculties of the soul; [Nemes. "de Nat. Hom." c. 15; Tertull. "de Anima", c. 14.] and doubted the reality of divination.Cicero, "de Divinatione", i. 3, ii. 42, 47, "Academica", ii. 33, comp. Epiphanius, "adv. Haeres." ii. 9.] In Ethics he recognised only a two-fold division of virtue, the theoretical and the practical, answering to the "dianoietic" and the "ethical" of Aristotle; endeavoured to bring the ultimate object of life into nearer relation to natural impulses, [Clement of Alexandria, "Stromata", ii.] and to show by similes the inseparability of the virtues; [Stobaeus, "Ecl. Eth." ii.] pointed out that the recognition of the moral, as something to be striven after for its own sake, was a leading fundamental idea in the speeches of Demosthenes; [Plutarch, "Demosthenes".] would not admit the harsh doctrine of apathy, [Aulus Gellius, xii. 5.] and, on the contrary, vindicated the claim of certain pleasurable sensations to be regarded as in accordance with nature, [Sextus Empiricus, "adv. Math." xi. 73.] while he also insisted that moral definitions should be laid down in such a way that they might be applied by the man who had not yet attained to wisdom. [Seneca, "Epistles", 116.]


On Duties

The principal work of Panaetius was, without doubt, his treatise "On Duties" ( _el. περὶ τοῦ καθήκοντος) composed in three books. In this he proposed to investigate, first, what was moral or immoral; then, what was useful or not useful; and lastly, how the apparent conflict between the moral and the useful was to be decided; for, as a Stoic, he could only regard this conflict as apparent not real. The third investigation he had expressly promised at the end of the third book, but had not carried out; [Cicero, "ad Atticum", xvi. 11, "de Officiis", iii. 2, 3, comp. i. 3, iii. 7, ii. 25.] and his disciple Posidonius seems to have only timidly [Cicero, "de Officiis", iii. 2.] and imperfectly supplied what was wanting; at least Cicero, who in his books "On Duties" intended, not indeed to translate, but to imitate Panaetius in his own manner, [Cicero, "de Officiis", ii. 17, iii. 2, i. 2, "ad Atticum", xvi. 11.] in the third section of the subject, did not follow Posidonius, but declares that he had completed independently and without assistance what Panaetius had left untouched. [Cicero, "de Officiis", iii. 7.] To judge from the insignificant character of the deviations, to which Cicero himself calls attention, as for example, the endeavour to define moral obligation, [Cicero, "de Officiis", i. 2.] the completion of the imperfect division into three parts, [Cicero, "de Officiis", i. 3, comp. ii. 25.] the rejection of unnecessary discussions, [Cicero, "de Officiis", ii. 5.] small supplementary additions, [Cicero, "de Officiis", ii. 24, 25.] in the first two books Cicero has borrowed the scientific contents of his work from Panaetius, without any essential alterations. Cicero seems to have been induced to follow Panaetius, passing by earlier attempts of the Stoics to investigate the philosophy of morals, not merely by the superiority of his work in other respects, but especially by the endeavour that prevailed throughout it, laying aside abstract investigations and paradoxical definitions, to exhibit in an impressive manner the philosophy of morals in its application to life. [Cicero, "de Officiis", ii. 10.] Generally speaking, Panaetius, following Aristotle, Xenocrates, Theophrastus, Dicaearchus, and especially Plato, had softened down the harsh severity of the older Stoics, and, without giving up their fundamental definitions, had modified them so as to be capable of being applied to the conduct of life, and clothed them in the garb of eloquence. [Cicero, "de Finibus", iv. 28, "Tusculanae Quaestiones", i. 32, "de Legibus", iii. 6; comp. Plutarch, "de Stoic. Repugnant."]

That Cicero has not reproduced the entire contents of the three books of Panaetius, we see from a fragment, which is not found in Cicero, preserved by Aulus Gellius, [Aulus Gellius, xiii. 27.] and which at the same time makes us acquainted with Panaetius's treatment of his subject in its rhetorical aspects.

Other Works

Panaetius also wrote treatises concerning "On Cheerfulness"; [Peri Euthumias: Diogenes Laërtius, ix., which Plutarch probably had before him in the his composition of the same name.] on the "Magistrates"; [Cicero, "de Legibus", iii. 5, 6.] "On Providence"; [Cicero, "ad Atticum", xiii. 8.] "On Divination"; a political treatise used by Cicero in his "De Republica"; and a letter to Quintus Aelius Tubero. [Cicero, "De Finibus", iv. 9, 23.] His work "On Philosophical Schools" [Diogenes Laërtius, ii.] appears to have been rich in facts and critical remarks, and the notices which we have about Socrates, and on the books of Plato and others of the Socratic school, given on the authority of Panaetius, were probably taken from that work.


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