Marcus Aurelius: The Five Good Emperors

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The words of Marcus Aurelius in The Meditations highlighted how rulership was conceived of good statesmanship at the time he was ruling the Roman Empire. The Meditations was written in the form of a personal notebook, most probably written while Aurelius was on campaign in central Europe c. AD 171-175. The treatise was organized in twelve different books, providing a guideline on how to use reason and logic, how to control one’s emotions, and how to practice self-mastery. (enotes, 2014) Marcus Aurelius was a philosopher as well as a Roman Emperor and was numbered the last of the “five good emperors”. According to the great historian Edward Gibbon, this was an era in which “the Roman Empire was governed by absolute power, under the guidance of wisdom and virtue.” (Edward Gibbon, vol. 1, chap. 3, p. 90) A Stoic is defined as a member of the ancient Greek school of philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium, holding that virtue and happiness can be attained only by submission to destiny and the natural law. (Dictionary.com, 2014) In Aurelius’ position, Zeno taught him that ruling an Empire required him to become free from passion, unmoved by joy or grief and submit without complaint to unavoidable necessity in order to make wise decisions. In keeping with the Stoic principles, Marcus Aurelius calls for the mind to regulate the body, which meant that he had to lead a very controlled and contemplative life. (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, chap.4, p. 159) Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations

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