Marcus Aurelius: Meditations

(ca. 170-180)

Explanation and Analysis of the Document

Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations reflect the emperor’s adoption of Stoic philosophy and his daily struggle to live according to its tenets. Originating in the Hellenistic Age and further developed during the Roman Imperial Age, the philosophy of Stoicism espoused the belief that virtue could be achieved by understanding and acting according to one’s nature. This was done by actively trying to understand what we (as individuals and in the aggregate, as humankind) and the world (all matter) are and, through this understanding, to define and live a life dedicated to the good. The twelve chapters of the Meditations are the emperor’s considerations of his thoughts and actions as he guides his empire through troubling times. Throughout the book he refers to himself in the second person—thou, thine, and so on.

For Aurelius, the undistracted life is important. Why be distracted by the personalities and quirks of others when we all...

Image for: Marcus Aurelius: Meditations

Bust of Marcus Aurelius (Yale University Art Gallery)

View Full Size