Marcus Aurelius.


I, Marcus Aurelius, was born into a prominent family in the Roman Empire in 121 AD. As the son of a praetor and grandson of a consul, I was born into a life of privilege and wealth. Growing up in the heart of the Roman Empire, I was exposed to the finest education and cultural opportunities available. My childhood was marked by rigorous study and a thirst for knowledge, eventually leading me to become one of the most respected philosophers of my time.

My early education was marked by the teaching of esteemed scholars like Apollonius of Chalcedon and Herodes Atticus. These individuals instilled in me a love of learning and a deep appreciation for the wisdom of philosophers. Their teachings, along with the guidance of my family, shaped my character and prepared me for the challenges I’d face as a leader in the Roman Empire.

As a young man, I was acutely aware of the privileges that came with my birth and the responsibilities that came with my station. I was determined to use my opportunities and resources to positively impact the world, devoting myself to studying philosophy, history, and rhetoric. This education and my family’s support and guidance would serve me well as I rose through the ranks of the Roman political hierarchy, eventually becoming the Emperor of the Roman Empire.

Throughout my life, my family remained a source of strength and inspiration. My father, who served as a praetor, instilled in me a love of justice and a commitment to the rule of law. My grandfather, who’d served as consul, taught me the importance of leadership and the responsibility that comes with wielding power. Their example, along with the teachings of my teachers and mentors, guided me as I navigated the complexities of Roman politics and the challenges of rule.

I married Faustina the Younger in 145 AD, and we had several children together, including at least 13 known offspring. Faustina was highly respected in her own right and was known for her beauty and charity work. Our marriage was a political alliance but also a loving one, and we remained close throughout our lives together. My wife and many children played a significant role in my life. They were an essential source of support and comfort to me during my time as Emperor. None more so than the two I’ll mention here.

My son Commodus, born in 161 AD, is the best-known of my children across the lands. He succeeded me as Emperor and is often remembered for his tyranny and excesses, which significantly departed from my philosophy and way of life. Nevertheless, Commodus was knowledgeable and well-educated, and he had the potential to be a great leader.

My daughter, Lucilla, was born in 148 AD and is known for her beauty and intelligence. She was married to Lucius Verus, who served as co-emperor with me. Lucilla is strong-willed and has a close relationship with her brother, Commodus.

The Politician

Before becoming Emperor, I had a prosperous political career. I began my journey as a consul in 140 AD, showcasing my capabilities and setting the stage for my future endeavours. From there, I was appointed governor in various provinces, honing my skills in leadership and governance. These experiences shaped me into the ruler I would later become, providing me with the knowledge and understanding necessary to effectively lead the Roman Empire.

As governor, I faced numerous challenges, from managing relationships with local leaders to ensuring stability and security across the empire. Despite these difficulties, I remained steadfast in my commitment to serving the people and maintaining the empire’s integrity. These experiences gave me a deeper appreciation for the complexities of leadership and the responsibilities that came with it. They also allowed me to develop the skills and qualities necessary to rule the Roman Empire effectively.

Through my political career, I gained a reputation as a wise and capable leader, earning respect and admiration from my peers and subordinates. This reputation would serve me well when appointed as Emperor. It set the stage for a successful and productive reign.

The Emperor

I was appointed Emperor in 161 AD, succeeding my adopted father, Antoninus Pius. My rule was marked by several significant events, including the wars in the east and the Antonine Plague outbreak. Despite these challenges, I remained dedicated to maintaining peace and stability within the empire, working tirelessly to address the needs of my subjects.

During my reign, I was stationed in various parts of the empire, including campaigns in Germania, Sirmium, and Aquileia. These journeys gave me a greater understanding of the diverse communities that made up our people and allowed me to interact with my subjects more personally. My travels also provided me with new insights and perspectives, inspiring reflections on the impermanence of life and the nature of existence. It was during this period that I began to note my meditations.

One of my most significant military accomplishments was successfully defending our borders against invading Germanic tribes in the north. This was a difficult and dangerous campaign, but I led the Roman army to victory and secured the safety of the empire’s northern boundary.

Another significant military achievement was the Roman Empire’s successful war against the Parthian Empire in the east. This was a complex and challenging conflict, but I used my strategic thinking and military skills to protect the territories and preserve power in the east.

One of my proudest accomplishments was granting citizenship to previously excluded people, including women and slaves. This was a significant step towards creating a more inclusive and just society, demonstrating a commitment to the betterment of my subjects. This, and much more besides, is why I am remembered by history as the last of the good Emperors.

The Philosopher

As a dedicated student of philosophy, my beliefs were deeply influenced by the Stoic school of thought. I was especially drawn to the teachings of Epictetus and his emphasis on living in accordance with nature and accepting the things I cannot change. These ideas became central to my philosophy and informed my approach to life and leadership.

My philosophical beliefs were shaped by the writings of my Stoic predecessors and my own personal experiences and reflections. I faced numerous challenges and obstacles throughout my political career and time as Emperor. However, my philosophical beliefs allowed me to approach these difficulties with wisdom and resilience, enabling me to maintain a sense of inner peace and serenity in the face of adversity.

In my “Meditations”, I share my reflections on these ideas, offering insights into the nature of existence and the importance of virtuous character. This work would likely become one of the most important texts of Stoic philosophy if anyone were to read them. They’d inspire countless individuals with their wisdom, resilience, and self-reflection teachings. But as Emperor, some things must remain private.

I was also profoundly influenced by my teachers and mentors. I was incredibly grateful for the guidance of my tutor Fronto, who instilled in me a love of learning and a deep appreciation for the art of rhetoric. His teachings, and those of the Stoics, significantly shaped my philosophical outlook and approach to life.