Marcus Aurelius

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

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