Mar 23 • 10M

The Choice of Hercules

Prodicus, Socrates, and Zeno of Citium

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Appears in this episode

Donald J. Robertson
Donald Robertson, the author of "How to Think Like a Roman Emperor", and a cognitive-behavioral therapist, talks about how to apply Stoicism in the modern world, discussing philosophy, psychology and self-improvement with guests from all walks of life. Available on Google and Apple podcasts.
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This is the famous speech, which we’re told inspired Zeno, the founder of Stoicism, to embark on a life of philosophy. He came across it in Book Two of Xenophon’s Memorabilia Socratis, where Socrates is portrayed reciting a version of it, which he learned from the celebrated Sophist and orator, Prodicus. It’s an exhortation to philosophy, which uses the legend of Hercules as an allegory to illustrate the choice between a life of virtue and one of vice. This story was illustrated in our graphic novel, Verissimus: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius.

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  • Introducing the speech

  • Hercules confronted by the choice between two paths in life

  • The temptations of Kakia or Vice, to a life of pleasure and idleness

  • The exhortation of Arete or Virtue, to temperance and endurance

  • The legacy of the speech and influence on Stoicism