Tag: Marcus Aurelius

Downtime: Marcus Aurelius – Warrior, Philosopher, Emperor by Frank McLynn

We talk a lot about Marcus Aurelius, but often know nothing beyond the 100-odd pages of Meditations, the published collection of his private notebooks.

Frank McLynn corrects this with a comprehensive biography of the famed philosopher-king. It’s a weighty read, but fascinating. I came away a much richer understanding of Roman history, economy, geography and military as well as some insight into the man and his beliefs.

I think it’s fair to say that McLynn is no Stoic himself, but it is interesting to understand the history of Stoicism and how it was understood in Marcus’ own time.

If I’m not too late, this would make a fantastic holiday read.

Echoes through time: most of what we say and do…

‘If thou wouldst know contentment, let thy deeds by few,’ said the sage. … Most of what we say and do is not necessary, and its omission would save both time and trouble. At every step, therefore, a man should ask himself, ‘Is this one of the things that are superfluous?’ Moreover, not idle actions only but even idle impressions ought to be suppressed; for then unnecessary action will not ensue.

Marcus Aurelius (AD 120 – 180), Meditations (4.24)


Echoes through time: the roads of nature

I travel the roads of nature until the hour when I shall lie down and be at rest; yielding back my last breath into the air from which I have drawn it daily, and sinking down upon the earth from which my father derived the seed, my mother the blood, and my nurse the milk of my being – the earth which for so many years has furnished my daily meat and drink, and, though so grievously abused, still suffers me to tread its surface.

Marcus Aurelius (AD 120 – 180), Meditations (5.4)


Echoes through time: whatever is, is in some sense the seed…

Observe how all things are continually being born of change; teach yourself to see that Nature’s highest happiness lies in changing the things that are, and forming new things after their kind. Whatever is, is in some sense the seed of what is to emerge from it. Nothing can become a philosopher less than to imagine that seed can only be something that is planted in the earth or the womb.

Marcus Aurelius (AD 120 – 180), Meditations (4.36)

Echoes through time: a brief sojourning in an alien land

In the life of man, his time is but a moment, his being an incessant flux, his senses a dim rushlight, his body a prey of worms, his soul an unquiet eddy, his fortune dark, and his fame doubtful. In short, all that is of the body is as coursing waters, all that is of the soul as dreams and vapours; life a warfare, a brief sojourning in an alien land; and after repute, oblivion.

Marcus Aurelius (AD 120 – 180), Meditations, Book 2, verse 17