As both an emperor of the Roman Empire in addition to being a philosopher, Marcus Aurelius has a unique place in history as very few leaders have possessed his combination of having both the ability to lead a country & to think deeply about life & the human condition.
To give a little bit of history on Marcus’s life, he was born on April 26, 121 in Rome (a city in modern day Italy) and lived until March 17, 180, upon which Marcus was buried in the city of Sirmium (the modern day city of Sremska Mitrovica, located in Serbia). In terms of his role as emperor, he jointly held this position with his step brother named Lucius Verus. If we were to look at the entire history of Roman emperors, he was known to be one of the greatest in the Roman Empire commonly known as one of the “Five Good Emperors” during his time. To give a little bit of background on his philosophical thought, the school of philosophy he practiced is called Stoicism and he wrote all about his experience regarding Stoic belief in a set of writings called The Meditations.
So what were the key tenets behind Stoic Philosophy? I’ll list them here as bullet points:
- Developing Self-Control & Fortitude for the purpose of controlling emotions.
- Transformation of emotions by voluntary abstinence from worldly pleasures.
- Abstinence of worldly pleasures to attain inner calm & freedom from suffering.
- Focused meditation to bring a person’s attention back to the present moment
In essence, Stoicism can be viewed more as a “way of life” as they believed that these rules should be incorporated into daily living.
In my opinion, the most interesting thing about Marcus Aurelius is the powerful insight provided from his 12 books which make up the Meditations. In his writings, he mentions many memorable aphorisms that are very applicable in our current day.
His way of thinking helps relieve us in times of distress, calms us when we dread the thought of death, helps us gather ourselves when we feel lost and makes us appreciate each and every day. This is who Marcus Aurelius was.
Here are several quotes from Marcus that I will leave with you to think about to find your own value and meaning from his thought:
Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking
It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live
He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe
When you arise in the morning, think of what a previous privilege it is to be alive – to breath, to think, to enjoy, to love.
You have power over your mind, not outside events. With this realization you will find strength.
Each day provides its own gifts.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, I hope Marcus Aurelius left an impact on you as he definitely changed the way I think about our world.