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Stetler Brown

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English 10-6/Latin II-7

November 10, 2011

Marcus Aurelius: The Philosopher King

“Our life is what our thoughts make it.” This is one of the many great quotes from one of the greatest Roman Emperors of ancient time. Marcus Aurelius changed the way that the Romans thought during his rule of Rome.

Marcus Aurelius was a very thoughtful person as a child, always taking time to think about the world he lived in. He was very grateful to his parents for the time and money they spent on his education. “From my grandfather Verus I learned good morals and the government of my temper”(Aurelius 11). This quote shows how grateful he is to his parents and how he got a head start for his education and his philosophy. His inspiration for his philosophy was evident in his life. This quote shows his thankfulness of his parents and of the deities, “From providence all things flow” (Aurelius 21). A foundation of his philosophy was the recognition that present day success is owed due to family and his tutors. Recognizing that success is not due to a single person but to the community that they live in is pivotal to the Roman Society. This is important to look at because this is the foundation he had as a child when he learned how to think thoughtfully and these lessons helped change the Roman societies. His use of this knowledge and education as the foundation for his philosophy provided the roots of his political carrer a younger person he would go into the streets and shows off his great and valuable understanding of the ways humans think to the people in the city politics.

Philosophical traits were first established when Marcus Aurelius had his education given to him by his parents, “Do not be whirled about, but in every movement have respect to justice, and on the occasion of every impression maintain the faculty of comprehension or understanding”. (Aurelius 96) This quote shows how we as students should have respect toward their educators and the socially people above them. This respect is a foundation of what a Roman educator should be. There is always something new to learn and Marcus understood that wisdom is more than education. He was very respectful to his elders and the people in authority over him like his teachers or tutors or parents. The fact that education was not available to everyone become known to him in his early years. He took his education and opportunities seriously and strived hard toward his goals that he had.

The tutors he had changed his type of thinking and gave him philosophical insights that he had not seen before. They gave him new ideas about ways to think and how to implement them into his life. This changed society in the way people thought because they saw Marcus Aurelius as a role model for philosophy. The people of Rome didn’t call Marcus the Philosopher King for no reason. “From Apollonius I learned freedom of will and undeviating steadiness of purpose; and to look at nothing else, not even for a moment except to reason;” (Aurelius). This man Apollonius was one of the tutors that Marcus had when he was growing up, the analysis from this quote is that Marcus was very focused on philosophy. When he started out in the political realm he had his philosophy in order thanks to this great tutor he had. Having a good tutor was important to Marcus’s family and they gave him a good one, “we are to understand that Marcus learned above all, to live in a philosophical way ” (Hadot 285). So above all things philosophy was the most important to him. This is evident by the way Marcus taught society how to think.

Another point that proves that Marcus Aurelius changed society is that he ruled like no other ruler. He was still Emperor but he had somebody reign besides him. His co ruler was Lucius Verus. This is where he incorporated philosophy into his reign. The people loved Marcus Aurelius because he was a wise ruler and being called the Philosopher King he must have had a lot of popularity with the people. The last four paragraphs have shown what leads up to his changing Roman society. The next paragraphs will go over the rule and how it changed society.

The fact that selfish power, Lucius Verus ruled with Marcus Aurelius shows that his vision was not one of selfish power. “Reverence that which is best in the universe; and this is that which makes use of all things”. (Aurelius 92). People certainly had reverence for him and his knowledge. As a result they started thinking differently. The people of Roman realized that there were other things in life that can benefit them like philosophy. Philosophy in the ancient world was something that people didn’t normally do. It was something that a worked at. The average middle class person did not have the same opportunity to learn. However Marcus wasn’t just a scholar, he was an emperor that valued philosophy and was the first of his kind to do so. Reverence only comes with something that the people want or can agree with on a topic or subject. A built sense of respect builds reverence.

Marcus Aurelius wrote a compilation of the philosophical thoughts he had which came to him mostly during his military campaigns. These were called he Meditations. These were and still are a great piece of ancient thought that reflect Marcus Aurelius’s thoughts and his Stoic philosophy. He composed these mostly while he was on military campaigning during his down time and recorded these. These writings are comprised of twelve books that contain all of his meditations. His thoughts gave great insight into what his thinking strategy was and give an example of the principles he ruled by. Many modern people have said good things about them. John Steinbeck is an author that refers to them in his novels and texts. Bill Clinton says that they are his favorite book. The book even now has been made favorite by the people of modern day America. This one of the other ways Marcus Aurelius affected society.

Marcus Aurelius did in fact effect society. The greatest ways was through his Stoic philosophy and the compilation of his philosophical thoughts. He affected society in the way people think. The upbringing changed his ways of thinking which brought change into how he reigned and how he impacted the way people think. “Devoted to his duty and humanitarian in his conception of it, Marcus Aurelius was concerned with improving living conditions for the poor, particularly minors”(Birley 394). This quote really summarizes everything that Marcus Aurelius was committed to and his people and humanity were really his top priority in life. A great portion of it had to do with the good tutors and education he had received as a child. The education he had received was largely due to his family putting value on a good education and that helped change society. Marcus Aurelius had a positive profound influence on society. Rome thrived under these Emperors. We wouldn’t be where we are today without the Romans because so much of their culture has survived throughout history. Many people today have been impacted by the meditations of Marcus Aurelius. He was a very compassionate man who had a lot to do with the people of Rome and the well being of the empire. Having a priority for the minorities is especially good of him to show that he cares for the people not standing out in society. Overall the main conclusion is that Marcus Aurelius changed society using his meditations and Stoic philosophy which had become built on the foundation he had in his education, tutors, and rule.

Works Cited

Marcus, Aurelius, and John Jackson. The Thoughts of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus,. London: Oxford Univ. Pr., 1961. Print.

Marcus Aurelius &Rutherford, R.B. Meditations. Oxford: Oxford UP. Print.

Aurelius, Marcus. The Golden Book of Marcus Aurelius. Ed. Ernest Rhys. London: E.P Dutton &, 1929. Print.

Aurelius, Marcus. The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius : Selections Annotated & Explained. Ed. Long George and McNeil Russell. Woodstock Vermont: SkyLight Paths Pub, 2007. Print.



Birley, A.R. Marcus Aurelius: a Life. 1996. Print.


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