Marcus Aurelius (121-180), commonly known as the last of the “good” Roman Emperors, spent much of his reign fighting the “Barbarians” that were frequently fighting at the edges of the Roman Empire. Aurelius was also a philosopher, at times a point of contention for his adopted family. However, it is because of his journal, now known as “Meditations,” that we have our best understanding of the ancient Greek philosophy Stoicism.
Stoics were known as followers of “apathetic world-weariness.” I have heard it said that Stoics are those people who can walk down a street with bullets flying around them saying “They are not meant for me.”
Nonetheless, some of the following 60 quotes show a deep appreciation for nature and beauty, displaying another stoic trait. For the stoic, doing what you must with duty and honor is indicative of the best life possible.
Marcus Aurelius Quotes
We have collected the following 60 quotes to offer you a glimpse into a lifetime long ago, and allow you to consider the benefits of Stoicism.
“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”
“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”
“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
“Receive without conceit, release without struggle.”
“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”
“It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinions than our own.”
“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.”
“The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury.”
“Life is short. That’s all there is to say. Get what you can from the present – thoughtfully, justly.”
“The soul becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts.”
“Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.”
“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”
“Think of all the years passed by in which you said to yourself “I’ll do it tomorrow,” and how the gods have again and again granted you periods of grace of which you have not availed yourself. It is time to realize that you are a member of the Universe, that you are born of Nature itself, and to know that a limit has been set to your time. Use every moment wisely, to perceive your inner refulgence, or ’twill be gone and nevermore within your reach.”
“The opinion of 10,000 men is of no value if none of them know anything about the subject.”
“When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love …”
“There is but one thing of real value – to cultivate truth and justice, and to live without anger in the midst of lying and unjust men.”
“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.”
“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.”
“Remember: Matter. How tiny your share of it. Time. How brief and fleeting your allotment of it. Fate. How small a role you play in it. ”
“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?”
“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.”
“Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All of these things have come upon them through ignorance of real good and ill… I can neither be harmed by any of them, for no man will involve me in wrong, nor can I be angry with my kinsman or hate him; for we have come into the world to work together.”
“When someone is properly grounded in life, they shouldn’t have to look outside themselves for approval.:
“A rock is thrown in the air. It loses nothing by coming down, gained nothing by going up.”
“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.”
“If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it.”
“Nothing that goes on in anyone else’s mind can harm you.”
“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.”
“Our anger and annoyance are more detrimental to us than the things themselves which anger or annoy us.”
“When another blames you or hates you, or people voice similar criticisms, go to their souls, penetrate inside and see what sort of people they are. You will realize that there is no need to be racked with anxiety that they should hold any particular opinion about you.”
“Nothing happens to any man that he is not formed by nature to bear.”
“Stick to what’s in front of you – idea, action, utterance. ”
“How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.”
“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.”
“What does not benefit the hive is no benefit to the bee.”
“Look well into thyself; there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look.”
“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”
“Loss is nothing else but change, and change is Nature’s delight.”
“Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now, take what’s left and live it properly. What doesn’t transmit light creates its own darkness.”
“What we do now echoes in eternity.”
“Do not be wise in words – be wise in deeds.”
“Why should we feel anger at the world? As if the world would notice?”
“Do every act of your life as though it were the very last act of your life.”
“The only wealth which you will keep forever is the wealth you have given away.”
“You have to assemble your life yourself – action by action.”
“The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious.”
“Everything that happens happens as it should, and if you observe carefully, you will find this to be so.”
“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.”
“For it is in your power to retire into yourself whenever you choose.”
“Give yourself a gift: the present moment.”
“Never esteem anything as of advantage to you that will make you break your word or lose your self-respect.”
“Life is neither good or evil, but only a place for good and evil.”
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
“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.”
“The happiness of those who want to be popular depends on others; the happiness of those who seek pleasure fluctuates with moods outside their control; but the happiness of the wise grows out of their own free acts.”
“Past and future have no power over you. Just the present – and even that can be minimized.”
“Just that you do the right thing. The rest doesn’t matter. Cold or warm. Tired or well-rested. Despised or honored. Dying…or busy with other assignments. Because dying, too, is one of our assignments in life. There as well: “To do what needs doing.” Look inward. Don’t let the true nature of anything elude you. Before long, all existing things will be transformed, to rise like smoke (assuming all things become one), or be dispersed in fragments…to move from one unselfish act to another with God in mind. Only there, delight and stillness…when jarred, unavoidably, by circumstances, revert at once to yourself, and don’t lose the rhythm more than you can help. You’ll have a better grasp of the harmony if you keep going back to it.”
“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.”
“Live your life as if you are ready to say goodbye to it at any moment, as if the time left for you were some pleasant surprise.”
“Humans have come into being for the sake of each other, so either teach them, or learn to bear them.”
Related: Epictetus’s Most thought Provoking quotes
Video: Who Was Marcus Aurelius?
Stoicism is a practical philosophy and Marcus’s “Meditations” is perhaps the only document of its kind ever made. It is the private thoughts of the world’s most powerful man giving advice to himself on how to make good on the responsibilities and obligations of his positions.
In this video, Ryan Holiday talks about the man behind “Meditations,” who he was, what his life was like, and how he applied Stoicism in it.
Summary of Marcus Aurelius
These quotes are both enlightening and useful. Although stoicism may seem harsh and unforgiving in today’s world, it was once incredibly helpful. During difficult times, this philosophy can keep anyone going.
This writer being a bit of a failed Stoic, I can offer this: Try to put some of this great advice to work for you. You may find it more helpful than you think.
Related: The Deepest Quotes from Man’s Search for Meaning
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