In modern culture ancient philosophers are depicted as educators of humanity, repositories of virgin knowledge, cultural organizers, university professors, precursors of scientists, organic intellectuals, and so on. Yet none of these images adequately reflects the ancient philosopher in his historical evolution, his essence, his standing in his own contemporary context. So what did it really mean to be a philosopher in Greece and Rome? In the ancient world philosophy was never just a set of doctrines, a collection of investigative procedures, or an arsenal of techniques for reasoning. Indeed, it always strove to present itself as a specific way of life. The author pursues this line of thought in this overview of the models of philosophical life that developed over a thousand years, from the coining of the word "philosopher" in the 4th century B.C.E. to the definitive consolidation of Christianity, that successfully introduced a new way of life contrasting with tradition.
Giuseppe Cambiano teaches History of Ancient Philosophy at the Normal School of the University of Pisa.