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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 happiness (for our lives are not made good or bad by our having or lacking them). The difficulties Marcus faces putting Stoicism into practice are philosophical as well as practical, and understanding his efforts increases our philosophical appreciation of Stoicism.

The approach taken in this article follows Hadot’s (1998, 5) idea that for the ancients philosophy was a way of life, and that Marcus’ Meditations show us what it was like for an individual to try to live a Stoic life. However, rather than trying to cover all the themes in Marcus in this light—in addition to the topics discussed below, he talks about time, fate, death, the cycles of change in the cosmos—I focus on one basic question for Marcus’ project of living Stoically: what does a Stoic use to guide his own conduct? Addressing this basic question leads into discussion of the two virtues Marcus has the most to say about: justice and piety.

Although he acknowledges that he struggles to live as a philosopher, Marcus urges himself to that life, spelling out what it involves in Stoic terms:

Marcus Aurelius ( / ɔː ˈ r iː l i ə s / ; Latin : Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus ; [6] [notes 1] [9] 26 April 121 – 17 March 180 AD) was Roman emperor from 161 to 180 , ruling jointly with Lucius Verus until Verus' death in 169 and jointly with his son, Commodus , from 177. He was the last of the so-called Five Good Emperors .

He was a practitioner of Stoicism , and his untitled writing, commonly known as Meditations , is a significant source of our modern understanding of ancient Stoic philosophy. It is considered by many commentators to be one of the greatest works of philosophy. [10]

During his reign, the Roman Empire defeated a revitalized Parthian Empire in the East: Aurelius' general Avidius Cassius sacked the capital Ctesiphon in 164. In central Europe, Aurelius fought the Marcomanni , Quadi , and Sarmatians with success during the Marcomannic Wars , although the threat of the Germanic peoples began to represent a troubling reality for the Empire. A revolt in the East led by Avidius Cassius failed to gain momentum and was suppressed immediately. Persecution of Christians increased during his reign.

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 happiness (for our lives are not made good or bad by our having or lacking them). The difficulties Marcus faces putting Stoicism into practice are philosophical as well as practical, and understanding his efforts increases our philosophical appreciation of Stoicism.

The approach taken in this article follows Hadot’s (1998, 5) idea that for the ancients philosophy was a way of life, and that Marcus’ Meditations show us what it was like for an individual to try to live a Stoic life. However, rather than trying to cover all the themes in Marcus in this light—in addition to the topics discussed below, he talks about time, fate, death, the cycles of change in the cosmos—I focus on one basic question for Marcus’ project of living Stoically: what does a Stoic use to guide his own conduct? Addressing this basic question leads into discussion of the two virtues Marcus has the most to say about: justice and piety.

Although he acknowledges that he struggles to live as a philosopher, Marcus urges himself to that life, spelling out what it involves in Stoic terms:

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 happiness (for our lives are not made good or bad by our having or lacking them). The difficulties Marcus faces putting Stoicism into practice are philosophical as well as practical, and understanding his efforts increases our philosophical appreciation of Stoicism.

The approach taken in this article follows Hadot’s (1998, 5) idea that for the ancients philosophy was a way of life, and that Marcus’ Meditations show us what it was like for an individual to try to live a Stoic life. However, rather than trying to cover all the themes in Marcus in this light—in addition to the topics discussed below, he talks about time, fate, death, the cycles of change in the cosmos—I focus on one basic question for Marcus’ project of living Stoically: what does a Stoic use to guide his own conduct? Addressing this basic question leads into discussion of the two virtues Marcus has the most to say about: justice and piety.

Although he acknowledges that he struggles to live as a philosopher, Marcus urges himself to that life, spelling out what it involves in Stoic terms:

Marcus Aurelius ( / ɔː ˈ r iː l i ə s / ; Latin : Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus ; [6] [notes 1] [9] 26 April 121 – 17 March 180 AD) was Roman emperor from 161 to 180 , ruling jointly with Lucius Verus until Verus' death in 169 and jointly with his son, Commodus , from 177. He was the last of the so-called Five Good Emperors .

He was a practitioner of Stoicism , and his untitled writing, commonly known as Meditations , is a significant source of our modern understanding of ancient Stoic philosophy. It is considered by many commentators to be one of the greatest works of philosophy. [10]

During his reign, the Roman Empire defeated a revitalized Parthian Empire in the East: Aurelius' general Avidius Cassius sacked the capital Ctesiphon in 164. In central Europe, Aurelius fought the Marcomanni , Quadi , and Sarmatians with success during the Marcomannic Wars , although the threat of the Germanic peoples began to represent a troubling reality for the Empire. A revolt in the East led by Avidius Cassius failed to gain momentum and was suppressed immediately. Persecution of Christians increased during his reign.

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