Marcus Aurelius was a Roman Emperor who ruled from 161AD to 180AD. By all accounts, Aurelius was a fair and benevolent ruler, unlike say, the real ‘mad king’ Caligula or Aurelius’ son and successor Commodus, who believed himself a demigod (Commodus was played by Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator). While his reign was great by Ancient Rome standards, Aurelius is remembered more today as a philosopher and is one of the three main figures of Stoicism (the other two being Seneca and Epictetus). Aurelius’s philosophy is known thanks to the personal journal that he wrote over many years while on military campaign, that was eventually published as the book Meditations. The book, written solely for himself, is a collection of stoic reminders on how to live a good life.
Stoicism is a complex philosophy and not just the ‘stiff upper lip’ ethos that most, including myself, stereotype it as (before I did research for this post that is). Its main tenets focus on finding happiness within yourself rather than chasing external and material goals, control of your emotions, not letting destructive emotions rule your mind and recognising that humans are one with nature. In today’s culture of immediate gratification and the relentless pursuit of more shiny things, it’s no wonder stoicism is enjoying a resurgence in popularity.
The passage used in the comic is taken from Meditations, chapter 2, part 1. You can read the whole book online.
Thanks to Trevor and Teague for submitting this quote and all the other readers who submitted quotes from Meditations.