top of page

Death comes Knocking


Death in the age of Seneca was often bereft of the comforts, compassion and dignity that many of us are afforded today. So for the Stoics it was important to acquaint themselves with the intricacies of death and its place in the cosmos. 

So, what did the stoics think about death?


Seneca had a lot to say about it. We fear death, as we fear the unknown. To remove the fear of death, start  by acknowledging its certainty and accepting our demise as part of the natural order of all things - animate and inanimate. Death is a return to our cosmic components.

We are granted life at birth with its inevitable consequences: aging and death. So what point is there in fearing what we know we must face? With death you cease to exist, just as you didn't exist before birth. Death is likened to peace: freedom from the tribulations of life. It returns us to a place where we started...before we were born.


Life is a journey and death is the final destination. No map can change that! It is not important how long the journey is, but how well it is travelled.

  • A long life is not something we can control, but living well is.

  • It matters more how well you live your life, not how long.

  • Enjoy life by not obsessing on how much of it is left.

  • Treat every day as though it were your last.

  • Think of each day as an individual life.

For more on the stoic contemplation of death, see Premeditation of its extreme.

Prepare for death.

Toughen your resolve.

Face death unafraid.

What dies is part of the universe and returns to its component parts, which are also elements of the universe. 

Marcus Aurelius

The Stoic Case for Suicide

Is suicide justifiable? For the Stoics, suicide was a reasonable and justifiable solution for escape from some specific cruelties of illness or humanity. However, it was not considered an honourable alternative, if you were still able to help others who depended on you. Seneca, in his later years, struggled to stay healthy, so he could be there to support his wife.

It is wise and prudent to cast aside thoughts of suicide for the sake of others. Seneca

It is shameful and unreasonable to surrender your spirit when the body is able to fight on. Marcus Aurelius


There is a [stoic] case for suicide. In a body racked by crippling illness and old age, death is often slow and long lasting...prolonging death, not life. When the body begins to lose its capacity to function, it was reasonable to commit suicide while you still had the capability to do so, rather than linger on, until you couldn't. For stoics, the body was merely a vessel for the mind: setting the mind free from a body that no longer functioned was justifiable. Having already established that a longer life is not necessarily better, they were certain that a longer death was worse.

For those that were victims to the cruelties of ancient tyranny or slavery, suicide was seen as an honorable alternative: to die willingly by your own hand, is to die well. When we hold power over our own death, no one holds power over us. Death became a path to freedom which was unobtainable by any other means.

bottom of page