12 Quotes by Marcus Aurelius That are Still Relevant
Today’s search for inspirational quotes takes us back in history to the date 26th of April 121, when Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, also known as The Philosopher, was born.
The son of Marcus Annius Verus (III) and Domitia Lucilla reigned from the year 161 to his death on March 17th, 180.
Marcus Aurelius is also remembered as the last of the Five Good Emperors, who ruled Rome in times of political stability and financial prosperity from the year 96 AD to the year 180. In chronological order, their names are as follows: Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius, whose quotes inspired me to carry out this small research for you, our readers.
A number of historians agree that Marcus Aurelius’s death also marks the end of the so-called Pax Romana – a long period of relative peace in the Empire.
Family origins and personal life
Marcus’ roots can be traced to Ucubi, a small town southeast of Córdoba in Spain (Now called Espejo). As his father died when he was three or four, Marcus never built a lasting bond with him. Yet, he wrote in his Meditations that he had always associated the image of his father with modesty and manliness.
After the death of Marcus Annius Verus (III), Marcus’s mother Lucilla chose not to remarry. In his memoirs, Marcus gives her credit for teaching him piety, moderation in his diet, and, above all, “how to avoid the ways of the rich”. This last tip must have been really important, considering the low morals and rampant debauchery in Rome at that time.
Marcus Aurelius’s writings reveal the deep and affectioned connection he had with his mother, one that was certainly not marred by incestuous allegations. In the works of his life, Meditations, he reveals that “although she was fated to die young, she spent her last years with me”.
Education, tutors, and philosophical view
His philosophical journal, Meditations, is the primary source of ancient Stoic philosophy. The fact that he left such a written monument to his future fellow philosophers makes Marcus Aurelius a truly exceptional man.
As a true stoic, he used to wear a rough Greek cloak and would sleep on the ground for a long time. Eventually, his mother Domitia Lucilla managed to talk him into abandoning this practice.
By the Roman standards of that time, Marcus Aurelius was a highly educated man. One of his tutors was artist Diognetus, who is said to have sparked the future emperor’s interest in philosophy. Marcus’s tutor in Latin was Marcus Cornelius Fronto, commonly known as Fronto. He played an essential part in Marcus’s life. In terms of his eloquence in Latin and his oratorical skills, Fronto was considered second only to the great Cicero, if not his equal.
Marriage to Faustina and ascension to the throne
In the year 145, Marcus Aurelius married Antoninus’ daughter Faustina the Younger. Their marriage lasted three full decades (until his death in the year 180) and they had at least thirteen children.
This makes Faustina one of the most fertile women in the history of Rome. Unfortunately, most of their children died in infancy and childhood, probably because Faustina and Marcus were cousins. In fact, only one son (Marcus’s successor to the throne, Commodus) and four daughters outlived their father.
Marcus Aurelius formally ascended to the throne on the 7th of March 161 as the successor of Antoninus Pius. Unlike many of his predecessors, Marcus was not obsessed with power and shared his rule with Lucius Verus (from 161 to 169) and his son, Commodus (from 177 to his death in180). Interestingly enough, Marcus became the first emperor to die with a living, adult son!
In his early rule, Marcus increased the silver purity of the Roman currency, the denarius. He was not very tolerant towards the early Christians, whose persecutions are reported to have hiked during his reign.
A man of high virtues and a tragic character
In his book, Last Prophecy of Rome (2016), Brtish writer Iain Benjamin King sees Marcus Aurelius as a tragic character, because his values of self-restraint, duty, and respect for others were totally rejected by the imperial line he anointed upon his death.
Take some time to read the twelve immortal quotes by this truly exceptional man listed below.
Like a distant echo from the past, they reflect Marcus Aurelius’s virtues and high morals, as well as his philosophical views.
1. The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts. – Marcus Aurelius
2. When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love… – Marcus Aurelius
3. Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one. – Marcus Aurelius
4. Do every act of your life as though it were the very last act of your life. – Marcus Aurelius
5. If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it. – Marcus Aurelius
6. Remember that very little is needed to make a happy life. – Marcus Aurelius
7. A man’s worth is no greater than the worth of his ambitions. – Marcus Aurelius
8. What we do now echoes in eternity. – Marcus Aurelius
9. Accept whatever comes to you woven in the pattern of your destiny, for what could more aptly fit your needs? – Marcus Aurelius
10. Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them. – Marcus Aurelius
11. Do every act of your life as though it were the very last act of your life. – Marcus Aurelius
12. The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are. – Marcus Aurelius