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460 Quotes About Marcus Aurelius

  • Last updated Jun 28 2021

Wikipedia Summary for Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus ( ə-REE-lee-əs; 26 April 121 – 17 March 180), was Roman emperor from 161 to 180 and a Stoic philosopher. He was the last of the rulers known as the Five Good Emperors (a term coined some 13 centuries later by Niccolò Machiavelli), and the last emperor of the Pax Romana (27 BC to 180 AD), an age of relative peace and stability for the Roman Empire. He served as Roman consul in 140, 145, and 161.

Marcus was born during the reign of Hadrian to the emperor's nephew, the praetor Marcus Annius Verus, and the heiress Domitia Calvilla. His father died when he was three, and his mother and grandfather raised Marcus. After Hadrian's adoptive son, Aelius Caesar, died in 138, the emperor adopted Marcus' uncle Antoninus Pius as his new heir. In turn, Antoninus adopted Marcus and Lucius, the son of Aelius. Hadrian died that year and Antoninus became emperor. Now heir to the throne, Marcus studied Greek and Latin under tutors such as Herodes Atticus and Marcus Cornelius Fronto. Marcus married Antoninus' daughter Faustina in 145. After Antoninus died in 161, Marcus acceded to the throne alongside his adoptive brother, who took the name Lucius Verus.

The reign of Marcus Aurelius was marked by military conflict. In the East, the Roman Empire fought successfully with a revitalized Parthian Empire and the rebel Kingdom of Armenia. Marcus defeated the Marcomanni, Quadi, and Sarmatian Iazyges in the Marcomannic Wars; however, these and other Germanic peoples began to represent a troubling reality for the Empire. He modified the silver purity of the Roman currency, the denarius. The persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire appears to have increased during Marcus' reign, but his involvement in this is unknown. The Antonine Plague broke out in 165 or 166 and devastated the population of the Roman Empire, causing the deaths of five million people. Lucius Verus may have died from the plague in 169.

Unlike some of his predecessors, Marcus chose not to adopt an heir. His children included Lucilla, who married Lucius, and Commodus, whose succession after Marcus has been a subject of debate among both contemporary and modern historians. The Column and Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius still stand in Rome, where they were erected in celebration of his military victories. Meditations, the writings of "the philosopher" – as contemporary biographers called Marcus, are a significant source of the modern understanding of ancient Stoic philosophy. They have been praised by fellow writers, philosophers, monarchs, and politicians centuries after his death.

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Nothing that goes on in anyone else's mind can harm you. Nor can the shifts and changes in the world around you.


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Do not disturb yourself by picturing your life as a whole; do not assemble in your mind the many and varied troubles which have come to you in the past and will come again in the future, but ask yourself with regard to every present difficulty: 'What is there in this that is unbearable and beyond endurance?' You would be ashamed to confess it! And then remind yourself that it is not the future or what has passed that afflicts you, but always the present, and the power of this is much diminished if you take it in isolation and call your mind to task if it thinks that it cannot stand up to it when taken on its own.


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How unlucky I am that this should happen to me. But not at all. Perhaps, say how lucky I am that I am not broken by what has happened, and I am not afraid of what is about to happen. For the same blow might have stricken anyone, but not many would have absorbed it without capitulation and complaint.


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The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing, in so far as it stands ready against the accidental and the unforeseen, and is not apt to fall.


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Observe constantly that all things take place by change, and accustom thyself to consider that the nature of the Universe loves nothing so much as to change the things which are, and to make new things like them.


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The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts.


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How good it is when you have roast meat or suchlike foods before you, to impress on your mind that this is the dead body of a fish, this is the dead body of a bird or pig; and again, that the Falernian wine is the mere juice of grapes, and your purple edged robe simply the hair of a sheep soaked in shell-fish blood!
And in sexual intercourse that it is no more than the friction of a membrane and a spurt of mucus ejected.
How good these perceptions are at getting to the heart of the real thing and penetrating through it, so you can see it for what it is!
This should be your practice throughout all your life: when things have such a plausible appearance, show them naked, see their shoddiness, strip away their own boastful account of themselves.
Vanity is the greatest seducer of reason: when you are most convinced that your work is important, that is when you are most under its spell.


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Remember that all is opinion. For what was said by the Cynic Monimus is manifest: and manifest too is the use of what was said, if a man receives what may be got out of it as far as it is true.




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Longer Version:

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


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Frequently consider the connection of all things in the universe. .. We should not say 'I am an Athenian' or 'I am a Roman' but 'I am a citizen of the Universe.




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Longer Version:

Just that you do the right thing. The rest doesn't matter. Cold or warm. Tired or well-rested. Despised or honored. Dying...or busy with other assignments. Because dying, too, is one of our assignments in life. There as well: "To do what needs doing." Look inward. Don't let the true nature of anything elude you. Before long, all existing things will be transformed, to rise like smoke (assuming all things become one), or be dispersed in fragments...to move from one unselfish act to another with God in mind. Only there, delight and stillness...when jarred, unavoidably, by circumstances, revert at once to yourself, and don't lose the rhythm more than you can help. You'll have a better grasp of the harmony if you keep going back to it.



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The universal nature has no external space; but the wondrous part of her art is that though she has circumscribed herself, everything which is within her which appears to decay and to grow old and to be useless she changes into herself, and again makes other new things from these very same, so that she requires neither substance from without nor wants a place into which she may cast that which decays. She is content then with her own space, and her own matter, and her own art.


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Longer Version:

So other people hurt me? That's their problem. Their character and actions are not mine. What is done to me is ordained by nature, what I do by my own.


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