Scholia Reviews ns 9 (2000) 11.

Malcolm Schofield, The Stoic Idea of the City. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1999. Pp. xviii + 184. ISBN 0-226-740064. US$14.00, UKú10.00.

Jessie Maritz
University of Zimbabwe

This reprint, with a new foreword by Martha C. Nussbaum and a new epilogue by the author, is ample proof of the success of the original, first published by Cambridge University Press in 1991. Schofield collects, sifts and reconstructs numerous fragmentary texts of Stoic political philosophy found in the works of later authors. These include both negative prescripts that proved an embarrassment later (no education, no civic buildings, no coinage) and positive injunctions (love as the foundation of civic concord and freedom) which raise the unusual question of the erotic as a political principle. Clement (Strom. 4.26.172) records a Stoic view that the universe (OU)RANO/S) is in the proper sense a city, whereas so-called cities on earth are not, 'for a city or people is something morally good, an organization or group of men administered by law which exhibits refinements (A)STEI=ON)'.[[1]] The cosmic city is the common home of men and gods, since they alone have reason and can live according to law and justice. Schofield argues that this concept opened the way for a new style of political philosophy that was not concerned with the polis, but with the obedience of a plurality of persons to 'injunctions of right reason on the just treatment of other persons', i.e. natural law (p. 103). In his epilogue he considers the utopian aspect of Zeno's 'Republic', criticized in antiquity as 'impossible hypotheses for people who didn't exist' (Philodemos, One the Stoics 12.8- 11),[[2]] and concludes that Zeno in fact did intend it as a guide for practical living here-and-now.

The book is aimed at students of philosophy, of the history of political thought, and at Hellenists. As a new reader, my impression is that under-graduate students who do not fall into these categories but the more general one of Classical Studies, would find it difficult reading, but could learn much about the methodology and scholarship underlying glib statements in other text books. Its greatest value for such readers is that it bridges the gap between the two models most often highlighted, Plato's Republic and Augustines's City of God. Later philosophers owed much more to the Stoics than is often realized, and the modern reader usually meets them (if at all) through their Roman interpreters Cicero or Seneca. Schofield's book aims to restore their original voice.


[[1]] Translated by Schofield, pp. 61, 73.

[[2]] Quoted by Schofield on p. 147.