Bust of Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius

(121 - 180)

Marcus Aurelius became emperor of Rome at the age of thirty-nine in 161 and insisted that his adoptive brother, Lucius Verus, be made co-emperor, the first time in the empire’s history that its rule was shared. It is believed that he composed his Meditations, originally written in Greek, during the last years of his life, most of which were spent leading a protracted campaign against Germanic tribes. Marcus observed, “We all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.”

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What is outside my mind means nothing to it.

—Marcus Aurelius, c. 170

Shame on the soul, to falter on the road of life while the body still perseveres.

—Marcus Aurelius, c. 170

Every man is worth just so much as the things he busies himself with.

—Marcus Aurelius, c. 175

The noblest kind of retribution is not to become like your enemy.

—Marcus Aurelius, c. 175


Overworked and suffering from chest and stomach conditions, Emperor Marcus Aurelius took a prescription from his physician, Galen, for opium. According to Galen, the emperor did not like that the drug made him drowsy, so he stopped taking it. Then he found himself unable to sleep, so he started taking it again.

There is no man so fortunate that there shall not be by him when he is dying some who are pleased with what is going to happen.

—Marcus Aurelius, c. 175

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