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Authors Collection - Sun Tzu - Epictetus - Marcus Aurelius

Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu

(c500-320 BC)

Author of "The Art of War"


sn dz ), fl. c.500–320. B.C., name used by the unknown Chinese authors of the sophisticated treatise on philosophy, logistics, espionage, and strategy and tactics known as The Art of War. It includes many commentaries by later Chinese philosophers. The core text was probably written by one person during a time of expanding feudal conflicts, but the exact century is uncertain. Most authorities now support a date early in the Warring States period (c.453–221 B.C.). This work has deeply influenced Chinese, Vietnamese, and Japanese military thinking and has enjoyed growing popularity among businessmen. It stresses the unpredictability of battle, the importance of deception and surprise, the close relationship between politics and military policy, and the high costs of war. The futility of seeking hard and fast rules and the subtle paradoxes of success are major themes. The best battle, Sun Tzu says, is the battle that is won without being fought. 

Sun Tzu, Chinese general, circa 500 B.C. A collection of essays on the art of war is attributed to Sun Tzu. There are a growing number of translations of this Chinese classic, usually titled The Art of War.

Knowledge of Sun Tzu reached Europe shortly before the French Revolution in the form of a summary translation by Father J. J. M. Amiot, a French Jesuit priest. In the various translations, Sun Tzu is sometimes referred to as Sun Wu, and Sun Tzi. The most fundamental of Sun Tzu's principles for the conduct of war is that "All warfare is based on deception". Another key Sun Tzu principle is that "The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting." Sun Tzu's ideas spread to the rest of Asia and to Japan.

The works of Sun Tzu have been widely known in the United States since the mid-1970s. Diplomat Henry Kissinger has made reference to Sun Tzu and the principles for the conduct of warfare has been the subject of serious study in U.S. military circles for many years. The Art of War as applied to business, sports, diplomacy and personal lives has been popularized in American business and management texts. Sun Tzu may be the most frequently quoted Chinese personality in the world today.



(c50-138 AD)

Author of the "The Enchiridion" or "The Manual"


p kt s), c.A.D. 50–c.A.D. 138, Phrygian Stoic philosopher. He wrote nothing, but his teachings were set down by his disciple Arrian in the Discourses and the Encheiridion ( The Manual). Epictetus emphasized indifference to external goods and taught that the true good is within oneself. His Stoicism was outstanding in its insistence on the doctrine of the brotherhood of man.


Marcus AureliusMarcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius Antoninius

(121-180 AD)

Author of "Meditations"


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 repeats itself.

Constantly regard 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)

Marcus Aurelius 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.

The Latin 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)

Marcus Aurelius's 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."
For further 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).


Tzu - Aurelius - Epictetus Collection

"Art of War" by Sun Tzu - For 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 - A 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.

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