First of all, because Stoics believe that our true good resides in our own character and actions, they would frequently remind themselves to distinguish between what’s “up to us” and what isn’t. For the Stoics that’s a fate worse than death. All rights reserved. Even if you have a 99% chance, or more, of surviving the pandemic, worry and anxiety may be ruining your life and driving you crazy. Follow God. During the last 14 years of his life he faced … How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius by Donald Robertson (St Martin’s Press, £21.99). Agasicles, king of the Spartans, once quipped that he wanted to be ‘the student of men whose son I should like to be as well.’ It is a critical consideration we need to make in our search for role models. Upon his adoption by Antoninus as heir to the throne, he was known as Marcus Aelius Aurelius Verus Caesar and… The virus can only harm your body – the worst it can do is kill you. His name at birth was supposedly Marcus Annius Verus, but some sources assign this name to him upon his father's death and unofficial adoption by his grandfather, upon his coming of age, or at the time of his marriage. It is very common to hear in both academic circles, as well as more close-knit Stoic circles, Marcus Aurelius (121 – 180 CE) being referred to as the philosopher king. We’re told this was what Marcus was thinking about on his deathbed. It was only during those last 10 years that Marcus Aurelius compiled his great work, although its format was more like a journal (and, originally, with no title) than an actual philosophical treatise. Rome itself was particularly badly affected, carts leaving the city each day piled high with dead bodies. Since the day you were born, that’s always been on the cards. This applies to unhealthy emotions in general, which the Stoics term “passions” – from pathos, the source of our word “pathological”. Much, if not all, of our thinking is also up to us. The Antonine Plague, named after him, was probably caused by a strain of the smallpox virus. This striving is part of the reason why his works are such an invaluable source of lessons in overcoming and remaining positive throughout life’s tests. In extreme cases some people may even take their own lives. “Choose not to be harmed and you won’t feel harmed. I will leave you to regard the following: “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.”. What happens to me is never directly under my control, never completely up to me, but my own thoughts and actions are – at least the voluntary ones. Tragically, only four daughters and one son outlived him, which was, no doubt, something of a trial for one who held so dearly the people close to him. No confusion in your words. “All that comes to pass”, he tells himself, even illness and death, should be as “familiar as the rose in spring and the fruit in autumn”. In a word, if there is a god, all is well; and if chance rules, do not thou be governed by it.”. However, fear penetrates into the moral core of our being. Although his mother didn’t spend a great deal of time with him, he had profound respect for her. Consisting of 12 books, written during times of constant strife: a dying wife, a troublesome son who lacked his fathers good temperament and was destined for his seat, rebellions and even war. Nobody is perfect, yourself included. The second century CE Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius was also a Stoic philosopher, and his Meditations, which he wrote to and for himself, offers readers a unique opportunity to see how an ancient person (indeed an emperor) might try to live a Stoic life, according to which only virtue is good, only vice is bad, and the things which we normally busy ourselves with are all indifferent to our … He frequently applies Stoic philosophy to the challenges of coping with pain, illness, anxiety and loss. During a tour of his Eastern Provinces, in the years leading up to 172 AD, he paid a visit to Athens, where he set up the ‘Four Chairs Of Philosophy’ to preserve the Stoic, Aristotelian, Platonic and Epicurean branches. It’s also the basic premise of modern cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), the leading evidence-based form of psychotherapy. Still, there was no shortage of formidable masculine figures in the boy’s life – his guardians equipped him with the best tutors the civilized world could offer and he was, of course, the best pupil they could have asked for. It’s hypocrisy to criticize others without recognizing your own … Hence, “It’s not events that upset us but rather our opinions about them.” More specifically, our judgment that something is really bad, awful or even catastrophic, causes our distress. He was a keen student of the science and, to him, what ascetic habits he could afford, considering his status, came easily indeed. The Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus was the last famous Stoic philosopher of antiquity. Nor is it the inconsiderate actions of others, those ignoring social distancing recommendations, that make us angry so much as our opinions about them. His writings are spotted with references to his loved ones, teachers and acquaintances and it is clear that he was astutely aware of just what impact the people he knew had on his own nature. They learn from how other people cope. Marcus Aurelius, through decades of training in Stoicism, in other words, had taught himself to face death with the steady calm of someone who has done so countless times already in the past. Read what he warns about leaving things to chance: “The universal intelligence puts itself in motion for every separate effect… or it puts itself in motion once, and everything else comes by way of a sequence in a manner; or individual elements are the origin of all things. After his father’s death, Marcus was mostly raised by his nurses and grandfather, also Marcus Annius Verus, who, although he lived in a palace and had all the means a man could ask for, never displayed ill-temper, only the purest of characters. Of particular relevance in a world so full of people vying for one’s time, is the lesson he taught about not wasting time on inconsequential people, who don’t work with you toward the greater good. T he Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus was the last famous Stoic philosopher of antiquity. The piety and simple diet she preferred began to groom him for a Stoic way of life, as did the family’s attitude toward wealth, which they didn’t seek to flaunt with pomp and gusto but rather to use wisely in the pursuit of virtue and the service of men. Am I proud to look up to this person? Marcus Aurelius was a man who lived by the Stoic laws, which so capably go into making a virtuous man. Most of us find it easier to bury our heads in the sand. He grew into a very well made man, this quote may give you insight into his attitude toward life: “No carelessness in your actions. An introspective man whose collected works are considered some of the most poignant amongst the texts of our Stoic fathers, Marcus took no human relationship lightly. Illness overcame him in 180 AD and following his death he was immediately deified, which is no surprise, given his strength of character and steadfast kindliness. The Stoics believed that when we’re confronted with our own mortality, and grasp its implications, that can change our perspective on life quite dramatically. He did this by nature and also by learned practices, all the way from his youth to his dying breath: “Adorn thyself with simplicity and with indifference towards the things which lie between virtue and vice. That, however, didn’t stop the later named ‘Meditations’ from becoming one of the most celebrated pieces of Stoic literature. During the last 14 years of his life he faced one of the worst plagues in European history. Our view of Roman leadership, especially over the few centuries around the birth of Christ, is tainted by tales of tyranny and callous pompousness. Stoicism is no exception. Marcus Aurelius, the Philosopher King, as they call him, was most certainly one of those special few.