About Marcus Aurelius l Meditations



Book Six - Book Eight

The emperor Marcus Aelius Aurelius Antoninus who reigned from 161-160 was the only Roman emperor besides Julius Caesar whose writings were to become part of the canon of Western classics.

His Meditations are a loosely-organized set of thoughts relating to the stoic philosophy which had been popular among the better-educated citizens of Rome for some centuries. It stressed self-discipline, virtue, and inner tranquillity. Aurelius was also a social reformer who worked for the improvement of the lot of the poor, slaves, and convicted criminals.

Non-Christians in the Western World have often looked to him as a role model. He was also a fierce persecutor of Christianity, doubtless because he felt that the religion threatened the values that had made Rome great. Aurelius was not an original or brilliant thinker, but his Meditations reflect well the stoic strain in Greco-Roman civilization. The emphasis on morality combined with emotional detachment is strongly reminiscent of Buddhist thought, with which Stoicism has often been compared.

What arguments does Aurelius offer to help people accept death? How persuasive do you find them? How does this philosophy emphasize the independence of the individual? Does this emphasis on the individual result in selfishness? What theme does Aurelius share with the poem by Horace in this volume?