Stoicism was the most influential philosophy in the Roman Empire during the period preceding the rise of Christianity. Marcus Aurelius was among the most famous Stoics of the Roman era, as well as one of the fiercest persecutors of the Roman Christians during his reign as emperor. The Roman stoics influenced Christians then and changed Christianity that is still studied today.
Stoicism believed that all people are manifestations of the one universal spirit and should live in brotherly love and readily help one another. They held that differences such as rank and wealth are of no importance in social relationships. Thus, before Christianity, Stoics recognized and advocated the brotherhood of humanity and the natural equality of all human beings. (Durant 975)
Stoicism was in Rome during the Hellenistic Era. After the death of Zeno of Citium, the Stoic school was headed by Cleanthes and Chrysippus, and its teachings were carried to Rome in 155 by Diogenes of Babylon. Stoic ideas appear in the greatest work of Roman literature, and later the philosophy was adopted by Seneca, Lucan, a poet and associate of the Emperor Nero, Epictetus, and the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Stoicism is perhaps the most significant philosophical school in the Roman Empire, and much of our contemporary views and popular mythologies about Romans are derived from Stoic principles.
The Greeks followed stoicism before the Romans, but he Romans were a far more practical people than the Greeks, and more skilled at governing. Stoicism became the strongest force in Roman life. The two best known Roman Stoic writers were Epictetus, a slave, and Marcus Aurelius, an Emperor. Perhaps we could best get a feel for their attitudes by reading their words directly for once truth becomes of secondary importance to living then it is feelings and not logical order which tell us the real meaning of a culture.
Ancient Rome was a strong believer in Stoicism and this belief was passed on to the Christians. This shows that Stoicism was a great philiosophy and that it influenced the Christian religion to this day.
Durant, Will. Caesar and Christ. Simon and Schuster, Inc., New York, 1950.
Durant, Will. The Age of Faith. Simon and Schuster, Inc., New York, 1950.