Thoughts of Marcus Antoninus Aurelius

I recently finished reading Thoughts of Marcus Antoninus Aurelius, a collection of Emperor Antoninus’s thoughts about Stoic principles. The format of the book is notable in that each ‘thought’ is written in short sentences, sometimes even in just one phrase but rarely more than a few paragraphs. I like the book because it shows a man at the head of a great Roman empire sharing in common with us such simple desires of being good, just, and content.

Marcus Aurelius writes a lot about the importance of wisdom, justice, and humility in living well. He is also fixated with the inevitability of death and the finitude of everything; glory, he says, is a futile pursuit as nothing is permanent and we are soon forgotten in the progress of time. Little did he know that his thoughts would endure for almost 2000 years.

Not Marcus Aurelius’s own words, but a commentary from the translator, nevertheless this passage is thought-provoking.

Many men think that they are seeking happiness when they are only seeking the gratification of some particular passion, the strongest that they have. The end of a man is, as already explained, to live comformably to nature, and he will thus obtain happiness, tranquility of mind, and contentment.

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