- Renaissance adaptation of ancient Roman Stoic phi-losophy, frequently recommended in the 16th century as a practical philosophy that could help intelligent people cope with the vagaries and violence of the spiritual uncertainty and religious warfare that troubled Europe from the 1540s to the end of the Thirty Years' War in 1648. The ancient philosophers who served as models and sources of inspiration for Neostoics lived in Roman times, though some of them wrote in Greek. They included Epictetus, Plutarch, Marcus Au-relius, and Seneca; of these, Plutarch and Seneca were the most fre-quently read and discussed. Greek Stoicism, which was founded by Zeno at Athens in the fourth century B.C. and emphasized the goal of living in accord with nature, had developed an abstract foundation in the concept of the Logos, or principle of rationality, that lies at the ba-sis of all being, though even Greek Stoicism was primarily concerned with ethical problems. Roman Stoicism had been even more oriented toward concern with the moral problems of life, and this form of Stoic thought was what appealed to Renaissance Stoics. In late an-tiquity, the influential church father St. Ambrose developed a Chris-tianized form of Stoicism as an acceptable guide to moral life, and Stoic texts, especially Seneca's Letters to Lucilius, were read and ad-mired in the Middle Ages. From the early Renaissance, many hu-manists endorsed Stoicism, with its ideal of duty and self-denial, as a system that was both compatible with Christian asceticism and practical as a guide to living. Petrarch addressed one of his imaginary letters to Seneca. His disciple Coluccio Salutati also ad-mired Seneca, as did Leon Battista Alberti. Niccolô Perotti trans-lated the Stoic Epictetus into Latin. At the beginning of the 16th cen-tury, thinkers as diverse as Pietro Pomponazzi, Guillaume Budé, and Niccolô Machiavelli incorporated Stoic ideas into their writings, and the greatest humanist of that generation, Erasmus, edited Seneca's works, while the youthful John Calvin, still a humanist and not yet converted to Protestantism, published a commentary on Seneca's book De dementia. The age of religious wars, from the 1540s to 1648, represents the peak of Renaissance Neostoicism, as troubled intellectuals found in Stoicism a rational system for main-taining their moral autonomy in a violent age.The most influential explicitly Stoic moral philosopher of the age was Justus Lipsius. His De constantia / On Constancy (1584) was his principal work, though he also produced an introduction to Stoic philosophy and an edition of Seneca's works. The French magistrate Guillaume du Vair was the most systematic French Stoic philosopher, but the most influential presentation of Stoic ideas as a means of maintaining the individual's moral autonomy and integrity was the Essays of Michel de Montaigne, who was not entirely committed to Stoicism as a system (or to any philosophical system) but who upheld many Stoic ideas in essays that had great influence on educated peo-ple in France and eventually in other countries.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.