Marcus Aurelius

Thursday, March 16th 2023

Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor who ruled from 161 to 180 AD. He is considered one of the most important Stoic philosophers, and is known for his book "Meditations," which he wrote during his reign.

As a Stoic, Marcus Aurelius believed that the purpose of life was to live in accordance with nature and to cultivate virtues such as wisdom, courage, justice, and self-control. He believed that by living a virtuous life, we can achieve inner peace and happiness, even in the face of adversity.

One of the key teachings of Marcus Aurelius was the idea that we should accept what happens to us and focus on what we can control. He believed that much of our suffering comes from our attachment to external things, such as wealth, status, and other people's opinions. By letting go of these attachments and focusing on our own thoughts and actions, we can achieve a sense of inner calm and freedom.

Marcus Aurelius also emphasized the importance of living in the present moment, and not getting caught up in regrets about the past or worries about the future. He believed that the only moment we truly have is the present, and that by focusing our attention on the present moment, we can find joy and fulfillment in life.

Overall, Marcus Aurelius's teachings on Stoicism emphasize the importance of living a virtuous life, accepting what happens to us, and focusing on what we can control. His writings continue to be influential today, and have inspired countless people to live more meaningful and fulfilling lives.

The 4 Stoic Virtues

Marcus Aurelius, the Stoic philosopher and Roman emperor, believed that the four cardinal virtues are wisdom, courage, justice, and self-control. Here are some examples of how he discussed and exemplified these virtues in his writing:

  1. Wisdom - Marcus Aurelius believed that wisdom was essential to living a good life. He saw wisdom as a combination of knowledge and practical judgment, which enabled a person to make the right decisions and act in accordance with nature. He wrote: "Do not waste what remains of your life in speculating about your neighbors, unless with a view to some mutual benefit. To wonder what so-and-so is doing and why, or what he is saying, or thinking, or scheming--in a word, anything that distracts you from fidelity to the ruler within you--means a loss of opportunity for some other task."

  2. Courage - Marcus Aurelius believed that courage was necessary to overcome fear and adversity. He saw courage as the ability to face challenges with calmness and determination, even in the face of danger or uncertainty. He wrote: "If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment."

  3. Justice - Marcus Aurelius believed that justice was essential to living in harmony with others. He saw justice as fairness, treating others with respect and kindness, and seeking to do what is right in all situations. He wrote: "It is in your power to withdraw yourself whenever you desire. Perfect tranquility within consists in the good ordering of the mind, the realm of your own."

  4. Self-control - Marcus Aurelius believed that self-control was necessary to avoid excess and live a balanced life. He saw self-control as the ability to regulate one's desires and emotions, and to act in accordance with reason rather than impulse. He wrote: "Whenever you are about to find fault with someone, ask yourself the following question: What fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize?"

These examples show how Marcus Aurelius saw the four cardinal virtues as essential to living a good life, and how he believed they could be applied in practical ways to overcome challenges and live in harmony with oneself and others.


  1. "The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts."

  2. "The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing."

  3. "Our life is what our thoughts make it."

  4. "The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way."

  5. "Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking."

  6. "Do every act of your life as if it were your last."

  7. "The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury."

  8. "If it is not right, do not do it; if it is not true, do not say it."

  9. "If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgment of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgment now."

  10. "To be like the rock that the waves keep crashing over is not a sign of strength, but of weakness."

  11. "The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it."

  12. "It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live."

  13. "You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength."

  14. "Everything that happens is either endurable or not. If it’s endurable, then endure it. Stop complaining. If it’s unendurable… then stop complaining. Your destruction will mean its end as well."

  15. "The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts."

  16. "The greatest wealth is to live content with little."

  17. "When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive, to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love."

  18. "Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears."

  19. "The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane."

  20. "It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that things are difficult."