Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius

Born: 121. Died: 180.

Major Ideas

- The Universe is governed by reason, which is God.

- In a rational universe, everything that happens is not only necessitated but good.

- Human happiness consists in a life lived in accordance with nature and reason.

- Though his actions are necessitated, an individual becomes free by acting rationally.

- The bad acts of others do not harm us; rather we are harmed by our own opinions about those acts.

- All rational beings are subject to rational law and so are citizens of a world community.

- The rational individual should have no fear of death, because it is a natural event of life.


Marcus Aurelius was born in 121.

His early education was overseen by the Emperor Hadrian, and he was later adopted by the Emperor Antoninus Pius in 138. After an initial education in rhetoric undertaken by Fronto, Marcus later abandoned it in favor of philosophy.

Marcus became Emperor himself in 161, initially alongside Lucius Verus, becoming sole Emperor in 169. Continual attacks meant that much of his reign was spent on campaign, especially in central Europe. However, he did find time to establish four Chairs of Philosophy in Athens, one for each of the principal philosophical traditions (Platonic, Aristotelian, Stoic, and Epicurean).

He died in 180.

Major Works of Marcus Aurelius

- Meditations

Quotes from Marcus Aurelius

- "A man does not sin by commission only, but often by omission." (from "Meditations")

- "All of us are working together for the same end; some of us knowingly and purposefully, others unconsciously. ... To one man falls this share of the task, to another that; indeed, no small part is performed, by that very malcontent who does all he can to hinder and undo the course of events." (from "Meditations")

- "Always think of the universe as one living organism, with a single substance and a single soul." (from "Meditations")

- "Here is a rule to remember in future, when anything tempts you to feel bitter: not, "This is a misfortune," but "To bear this worthily is good fortune."" (from "Meditations")

- "Let every action aim solely at the common good." (from "Meditations")

- "Let your one delight and refreshment be to pass from one service to the community to another, with God ever in mind." (from "Meditations")

- "Man is born for deeds of kindness." (from "Meditations")

- "My brother ... and I were born to work together, like a man's two hands, feet, or eyelids, or like the upper and lower rows of his teeth." (from "Meditations")

- "Observe how all things are continually being born of change. ... Whatever is, is in some sense the seed of what is to emerge from it." (from "Meditations")

- "One whose chief regard is for his own mind, and for the divinity within him and the service of its goodness, will strike no poses, utter no complaints, and crave neither for solitude nor yet for a crowd." (from "Meditations")

- "Our anger and annoyance are more detrimental to us than the things themselves which anger or annoy us." (from "Meditations")

- "To do justly is the only wisdom." (from "Meditations")

- "To pursue the unattainable is insanity." (from "Meditations")

- "Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one." (from "Meditations")

- "What is no good for the hive is no good for the bee." (from "Meditations")

- "The world order is a unity made up of multiplicity: God is one, pervading all things; all being is one, all law is one ... and all truth is one." (from "Meditations")


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