21 Stoic Quotes On Death

Stoic Quotes On Death

Stoicism is a school of philosophy that rose in the 3rd century BCE in Athens, Greece. Zeno of Citium was the founder of Stoic school of philosophy. He wasn’t a philosopher to begin with, but a merchant who landed in Athens when his ship sank. Know the story of Zeno.

From Athens, it moved to Rome, and stayed there as the philosophy of the kings until the death of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. He was the last of the Five Good Emperors. These five reigned the ancient Rome from 96 to 180 CE.

Even though Stoicism takes many cues from Socratic school of ethics, it differs when it comes to the concept of death. Socrates, who died by suicide, felt death frees the soul so that it returns to its former immortal self.

But the Stoics held death is a final, inevitable, natural event. All must die, and with the process of dying, both the body and the soul end their journey. They reasoned no one needs to be afraid of death.

Here are 21 Stoic quotes on death:

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1. That man lives badly who does not know how to die well. — Seneca

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2. I cannot escape death, but at least I can escape the fear of it. — Epictetus

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3. Death smiles at us all, but all a man can do is smile back. — Marcus Aurelius

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4. Given that all must die, it is better to die with distinction than to live long. — Musonius Rufus

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5. What upsets people is not things themselves but their judgments about the things. For example, death is nothing dreadful, or else Socrates would have thought so, but instead the judgment that death is dreadful, this is what is dreadful. — Epictetus

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6. You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire. — Seneca

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7. No evil is honorable: but death is honorable; therefore death is not evil. — Zeno of Citium

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8. Death is not an evil. What is it then? The one law mankind has that is free of all discrimination. — Seneca

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9. Choose to die well while you can; wait too long, and it might become impossible to do so. — Musonius Rufus

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10. You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think. — Marcus Aurelius

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11. Before I became old I tried to live well; now that I am old, I shall try to die well; but dying well means dying gladly. — Seneca

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12. Don’t behave as if you are destined to live forever. Death hangs over you. While you live, while it is in your power, be good. Now. — Marcus Aurelius

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13. Death, therefore, is the most awful of evils, nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not. — Epictetus

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14. Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now, take what’s left and live it properly. What doesn’t transmit light creates its own darkness. — Marcus Aurelius

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15. No evil is great which is the last evil of all. Death arrives; it would be a thing to dread, if it could remain with you. But death must either not come at all, or else must come and pass away. — Seneca

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16. Let death and exile, and all other things which appear terrible be daily before your eyes, but chiefly death, and you will never entertain any abject thought, nor too eagerly covet anything. — Epictetus

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17. Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time. — Seneca

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18. Brief is man’s life and small the nook of the earth where he lives; brief, too, is the longest posthumous fame, buoyed only by a succession of poor human beings who will very soon die and who know little of themselves, much less of someone who died long ago. — Marcus Aurelius

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19. Accept death in a cheerful spirit, as nothing but the dissolution of the elements from which each living thing is composed. If it doesn’t hurt the individual elements to change continually into one another, why are people afraid of all of them changing and separating? It’s a natural thing. And nothing natural is evil. — Marcus Aurelius

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20. Death is neither a good nor a bad thing, for that alone which is something can be a good or a bad thing: but that which is nothing, and reduces all things to nothing, does not hand us over to either fortune, because good and bad require some material to work upon. Fortune cannot take a hold of that which Nature has let go, nor can a man be unhappy if he is nothing. — Seneca

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21. You can discard most of the junk that clutters your mind — things that exist only there. And you will immediately make vast space for yourself by grasping the whole universe in your thought, by contemplating the eternity of time, and by reflecting on the speed with which things change — each part of every thing, the brief gap from birth to death, the infinite time before, and the equally infinite time that follows. — Marcus Aurelius

Final Words

Unlike the followers of Socrates and Plato, the Stoics believed there was no afterlife. They held souls could not exist without bodies, and each soul ceased to exist when the body was dead.

Stoics hold humans are animals with a capacity for reason. And it’s exactly this, they felt, that should drive us to control our thoughts and responses for living our lives according to nature. All Stoic philosophy comes from this core concept of living in accord with nature.

And what is more natural than death?

For Stoics, accepting death was in accordance with nature. The fear of death should not be removed with promises of afterlife. Instead, when death arrives, we should be able to say while we lived, we lived a good and virtuous life.

For that, all Stoics advise us to live as if it were our last day on earth.

FAQs

What did Marcus Aurelius say on death?

All that you see will soon perish; those who witness this perishing will soon perish themselves. Die in extreme old age or die before your time — it will all be the same. You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.

What did Epictetus say on death?

I must die. Must I then die lamenting? I must be put in chains. Must I then also lament? I must go into exile. Does any man then hinder me from going with smiles and cheerfulness and contentment?

What did Seneca say on death?

The final hour when we cease to exist does not itself bring death; it merely of itself completes the death-process. We reach death at that moment, but we have been a long time on the way.

• Want to know how to be more like a Stoic in your daily life? Try these 6 Stoic exercises.

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Author Bio: Sandip Roy is psychology writer, happiness researcher, and medical doctor. Founder of Happiness India Project, and chief editor of its blog. He writes popular-science articles on positive psychology and related topics.


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