Wisdom from the 'Philosopher King'—75 Famous Quotes from Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius

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75 of the most inspiring and powerful Marcus Aurelius quotes.

Marcus Aurelius is known as the "Philosopher King," the last of Rome's "Five Good Emperors." The latter title, assigned by Machiavelli, refers to five leaders who wisely sought out suitable heirs, rather than automatically naming their own offspring. Aurelius reigned from 161 CE to 180 CE, the final Emperor of the Pax Romana (Roman peace). He led the Roman people through the utter devastation brought on by the Antonine plague, the Parthian War and ongoing battles with the German tribes. He was well-loved by the people.

Aurelius was also known for being a student of stoicism, an ancient Greek and Roman philosophy that encouraged using reason and logic to guide one's perception. Virtue and duty received particular emphasis. Its founder, Zeno of Citium, studied at Plato's Academy.

Many of the quotes from Aurelius come directly from his own book, Meditations, considered one of the greatest philosophical works.

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75 Best Marcus Aurelius Quotes

1. "When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love."

2. "You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength."

3. "Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them. Think constantly on the changes of the elements into each other, for such thoughts wash away the dust of earthly life."

4. "The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts."

5. "Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth."

6. "Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one."

7. "How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it."

8. "The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury."

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9. "Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart."

10. "The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts."

11. "The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane."

12. "If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it."

13. "Think of the life you have lived until now as over and, as a dead man, see what’s left as a bonus and live it according to Nature. Love the hand that fate deals you and play it as your own, for what could be more fitting?"

14. "Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself in your way of thinking."

15. "Let men see, let them know, a real man, who lives as he was meant to live."

16. "Try praying differently, and see what happens: Instead of asking for ‘a way to sleep with her,’ try asking for ‘a way to stop desiring to sleep with her.’ Instead of ‘a way to get rid of him,’ try asking for ‘a way to not crave his demise.’ Instead of ‘a way to not lose my child,’ try asking for ‘a way to lose my fear of it.'"

17. "The memory of everything is very soon overwhelmed in time."

18. "Do not indulge in dreams of having what you have not, but reckon up the chief of the blessings you do possess, and then thankfully remember how you would crave for them if they were not yours."

19. "[I have learned] To read with diligence; not to rest satisfied with a light and superficial knowledge, nor quickly to assent to things commonly spoken of."

20. "You shouldn’t give circumstances the power to rouse anger, for they don’t care at all."

21. "It is the responsibility of leadership to work intelligently with what is given, and not waste time fantasizing about a world of flawless people and perfect choices."

22. "The mind freed from passions is an impenetrable fortress—a person has no more secure place of refuge for all time."

23. "That cucumber is bitter, so toss it out! There are thorns on the path, then keep away! Enough said. Why ponder the existence of nuisance?"

24. "A man's worth is no greater than the worth of his ambitions."

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25. "Let each thing you would do, say, or intend, be like that of a dying person."

26. "The best answer to anger is silence."

27. "Give thyself leisure to learn some good thing, and cease roving and wandering to and fro."

28. "Because a thing seems difficult for you, do not think it impossible."

29. "You have been formed of three parts—body, breath, and mind. Of these, the first two are yours insofar as they are only in your care. The third alone is truly yours."

30. "Don’t return to philosophy as a task-master, but as patients seek out relief in a treatment of sore eyes, or a dressing for a burn, or from an ointment. Regarding it this way, you’ll obey reason without putting it on display and rest easy in its care."

31. "Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present."

32. "The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing, because an artful life requires being prepared to meet and withstand sudden and unexpected attacks."

33. "No random actions, none not based on underlying principles."

34. "Keep a list before your mind of those who burned with anger and resentment about something, of even the most renowned for success, misfortune, evil deeds, or any special distinction. Then ask yourself, how did that work out? Smoke and dust, the stuff of simple myth trying to be legend…"

35. "Whenever someone has done wrong by you, immediately consider what notion of good or evil they had in doing it. For when you see that, you’ll feel compassion, instead of astonishment or rage."

36. "Choose not to be harmed, and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed, and you haven’t been."

37. "Stay calm and serene regardless of what life throws at you."

38. "Kindness is invincible, but only when it’s sincere, with no hypocrisy or faking. For what can even the most malicious person do if you keep showing kindness and, if given the chance, you gently point out where they went wrong—right as they are trying to harm you?"

39. "How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy."

40. "If someone is able to show me that what I think or do is not right, I will happily change, for I seek the truth, by which no one was ever truly harmed. It is the person who continues in his self-deception and ignorance who is harmed."

41. "Dig deep within yourself, for there is a fountain of goodness ever ready to flow if you will keep digging."

42. "All you need are these: certainty of judgment in the present moment: action for the common good in the present moment; and an attitude of gratitude in the present moment for anything that comes your way."

43. "It is essential for you to remember that the attention you give to any action should be in due proportion to its worth, for then you won’t tire and give up, if you aren’t busying yourself with lesser things beyond what should be allowed."

44. "Don’t be ashamed of needing help. You have a duty to fulfill just like a soldier on the wall of battle. So what if you are injured and can’t climb up without another soldier’s help?"

45. "Whatever anyone does or says, for my part I’m bound to the good. In the same way an emerald or gold or purple might always proclaim: ‘whatever anyone does or says, I must be what I am and show my true colors."

46. "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."

47. "Pass through this brief patch of time in harmony with nature, and come to your final resting place gracefully, just as a ripened olive might drop, praising the earth that nourished it and grateful to the tree that gave it growth."

48. "I learned to read carefully and not be satisfied with a rough understanding of the whole, and not to agree too quickly with those who have a lot to say about something."

49. "Life is short — the fruit of this life is a good character and acts for the common good."

50. "Wherever a person can live, there one can also live well."

51. "That which isn’t good for the hive, isn’t good for the bee."

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52. "Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart."

53. "Here is a rule to remember in future, when anything tempts you to feel bitter: not ‘This is misfortune,’ but ‘To bear this worthily is good fortune.’"

54. "Live out your life in truth and justice, tolerant of those who are neither true nor just."

55. "We live only now. Everything else is either passed or is unknown."

56. "To love only what happens, what was destined. No greater harmony."

57. "Do not act as if you were going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over you. While you live, while it is in your power, be good."

58. "It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live."

59. "What we do now echoes in eternity."

60. "Understand at last that you have something in you more powerful and divine than what causes the bodily passions and pulls you like a mere puppet. What thoughts now occupy my mind? Is it not fear, suspicion, desire, or something like that?"

61. "It isn’t manly to be enraged. Rather, gentleness and civility are more human, and therefore manlier. The nearer a man comes to a calm mind, the closer he is to strength."

62. "Look well into thyself; there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look."

63. "This is the mark of perfection of character—to spend each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, laziness, or any pretending."

64. "Every living organism is fulfilled when it follows the right path for its own nature."

65. "The universe is transformation; our life is what our thoughts make it."

66. "Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil."

67. "For it is in your power to retire into yourself whenever you choose."

68. "Your days are numbered. Use them to throw open the windows of your soul to the sun. If you do not, the sun will soon set, and you with it."

69. "Receive without conceit, release without struggle."

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70. "You always own the option of having no opinion. There is never any need to get worked up or to trouble your soul about things you can't control. These things are not asking to be judged by you. Leave them alone."

71. "There is no nature which is inferior to art, for the arts imitate the nature of things."

72. "Frightened of change? But what can exist without it? What’s closer to nature’s heart? Can you take a hot bath and leave the firewood as it was? Eat food without transforming it? Can any vital process take place without something being changed? Can’t you see? It’s just the same with you—and just as vital to nature."

73. "Often injustice lies in what you aren’t doing, not only in what you are doing."

74. "Whenever you are about to find fault with someone, ask yourself the following question: What fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize?"

75. "If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment."

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