Roman Emperor and
Stoic, the author of Meditations in twelve books. Its first
printing appeared in English in 1634. During the reign of Marcus Aurelius
the celebrated Pax Romana collapsed - perhaps this made the emperor the
most believable of all Stoics. An important feature of the philosophy was
that everything will recur: the whole universe becomes fire and then
the universe as one living being, having one substance and one soul; and
observe how all things have reference to one perception, the perception
of this one living being; and how all things act with one movement; and
how all things are the cooperating causes of all things which exist;
observe too the continuous spinning of the thread and the contexture of
the web. (from The Meditations)
was born in Rome. He came from an aristocratic family long established in
Spain. His father was Annius Verus. When only a small child, he attracted
the attention of the Emperor Hadrian (r. 117-138) - a pedophile and his
fellow-countryman. He was appointed by the Emperor to a priesthood in 129,
and Hadrian also supervised his education, which was entrusted to the best
professors of literature, rhetoric and philosophy of the time. From his
early twenties he deserted his other studies for philosophy. The Emperor
Antoninus, who succeeded Hadrian, adopted Marcus Aurelius as his son in
138. He treated Aurelius as a confidant and helper throughout his reign.
Aurelius was admitted to the Senate, and then twice the consulship. In 147
he shared tribunician power with Antoninus. During this time he began
composition of his Meditations, which he wrote in Greek in army
camps- Thus Book I is headed 'This among the Quadi on the Gran', and Book
II 'Written at Carnuntum'.
In 161 Marcus
Aurelius ascended the throne and shared his imperial power with his
adopted brother Lucius Aurelius Verus. Useless and lazy, Verus was
regarded as a kind of junior emperor, but he died in 169. After Verus's
death he ruled alone, until he admitted his own son, Commodus, to full
participation in the government in 177.
As an emperor
Marcus Aurelius was conservative and just by Roman standards. He was beset
by internal disturbances - famines and plagues - and by the external
threat posed by the Germans in the north and the Parthians in the east.
Toward the end of his reign, in 175, he was faced with a revolt by Avidius
Cassius, whom he praised and attempted to accommodate. Faustina, Marcus
Aurelius's wife, may have been involved in this conspiracy. An epidemic of
plague followed Cassius's army from the East. Year after year Aurelius
tried to push barbarians back but witnessed the gradual crumbling of the
Roman frontiers. In these times of disasters, he turned more and more to
study of Stoic philosophy.
writings of Marcus Aurelius, letters to a teacher, Fronto, are not
interesting, but the "Writings to Himself", called Meditations,
are remarkable. They are personal reflections and aphorisms, written for
his own edification during a long career of public service, after marching
or battle in the remote Danube. Meditations are valuable primarily
as a personal document, what it is to be a Stoic. His opinions in central
philosophical questions are very much similar to Epictetus' (c. 55-135 AD)
teachings. Epictetus's two basic principles were: Endure and Abstain. He
stressed that inner freedom is to be attained through submission to
providence, and rigorous detachment from everything not in our power.
He who fears death
either fears the loss of sensation or a different kind of sensation. But
if thou shalt have no sensation, neither wilt thou feel any harm; and if
thou shalt acquire another kind of sensation, thou wilt be a different
kind of living being and thou wilt not cease to live.
(from The Meditations)
melancholic writings reveal that the public duties depressed him and he
wanted to retire to live a simple country life. After his death in
Vindobona (now Vienna, Austria) on March 17, 180 the emperor's only son
Commodus became Emperor and turned out to be the worst of bad rulers.
Marcus Aurelius's reputation is shadowed by his persecution of Christians,
whom he considered superstitious and immoral. The fierce cruelty, with
which the persecution was carried out in Gaul, was not consistent with his
writings. However, Stoics had a profound influence upon both Neoplatonism
and Christianity. Besides Meditations Aurelius left behind among
others two Roman monuments, the column which commemorates his victories in
the Marcomannic Wars and the equestrian statue on the Capitol.
Stoicism - a
philosophy named after the Stoa Poikile, a hall in Athens where it was
first formulated around 300 BC by Zeno of Citium. Zeno's all writings
are lost. The philosophy was developed by Cleanthes (331-232) and
Chrysippus (280-207), who organized it into a system. Marcus Aurelius
based his views in part on the later version, which was developed by the
freed slave Epictetus (55-135). The Stoics were the first thoroughgoing
pantheists: God is the universe, the universe is God. The wise and
virtuous learns one's place in the scheme. According to Stoic Ethics,
the goal of human existence is to live consistently with Nature, which
means "consistently with Reason".
Meditations - or
Writings to Himself (Ta eis heauton) first printed in 1559 in Zurich by
Andreas Gesner with a Latin translation by William Xylander. Thereafter
it has enjoyed a wide readership from poets to statesmen. Meditations
contains 12 books, but while Book I offers a clear organization and
unity, the others do not. Marcus Aurelius worked on his philosophical
summary or pensées during the last years of his life while on
campaign along the marshlands of the Danube. Among the central themes is
man's fate to die and be forgotten. "What should be valued?",
he asks, but sees not the answer in the rewards of glory. Aurelius was
wanted to be untouched by passion, and generous by nature rather than by
calculation. He had a firm sense of responsibility, but was perhaps more
attracted to the Stoic ideal of the perfect man. When according to
Stoicism humanity's whole duty was to discover how it might live in
harmony with the order of Nature, Aurelius hoped sadly that it could
also apply to him: "Even in a palace life may be lived well."
reading: Marcus Aurelius: His Life and His Works by A.S.L.
Farquharson (1951); Marcus Aurelius by Anthony Birley (1987,
original edition 1966); The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius by R.B.
Rutheford (1989); The Therapy of Desire by Martha C. Nussbaum
(1994); The Roman Empire in Transition by Michael Grant (1994) -
Note: in some sources Marcus Aurelius's birth date is April 16, 121 (Lexicon
der Weltliteratur, ed. by Gero von Wilpert, 1988).
- Aurelius - Epictetus Collection
"Art of War" by Sun Tzu
more than two thousand years, Sun-tzu's The Art of War has
provided leaders with essential advice on battlefield tactics
and management strategies.
"Meditations" by Marcus Aurelius
series of spiritual exercises filled with wisdom, practical
guidance, and profound understanding of human behavior
and remains one of the greatest
works of spiritual and ethical reflection ever written.
"The Manual" by Epictetus -
"The Enchiridion" ; Could be called
"the very first self-help book." This Greek philosopher wrote
a small but powerful tractate on living a content and happy life. Marcus
Aurelius was greatly influenced by the teachings of Epictetus. This Greek philosopher wrote
a small but powerful tractate on living a content and happy life.
(3 eBooks) FOR JUST $5.95
(That's a $45.00 Value)
of 5 stars
"The Tzu - Aurelius - Epictetus Collection" Now