The Significance of Marcus Aurelius' Meditations

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The significance of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations
Barton Shaw
HUM101-006
Sean Doyle
7/9/09

History has shown us how great men and women have changed the world around them. Some of those individuals have accomplished this through political or military force; others have less aggressively stood up for what they believe in, and changed their circumstances that way. Still, others are remembered for their intellectual prowess, and their influence on how we think about life. When you hear about philosophers, it tends to be Plato, Socrates, or Aristotle. These men are great, and it is appropriate that we discuss them so often; however, there are other thinkers who have had a significant impact on philosophy. One of those individuals is Marcus Aurelius who is even more remarkable because he combined philosopher, military commander, and ruler. As Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius had great power, fame, and wealth. Born in Rome, the adoptive son of Emperor Antoninus Pius, with his privileged upbringing, Aurelius received an exceptional education. He succeeded Antoninus on March 7, 161, and for eight years ruled conjointly with his brother Lucius Aurelius Verus. Revolts in different parts of the empire required him to lead military campaigns on the frontier and that is where he began keeping a journal where he would write down his observations and principles. This group of writings, found after his death, called To Himself or better known today as Meditations. This work allows insight into something rare in the field of humanities, the mind of a thinker/leader. He is known more specifically as the last great Stoic philosopher, which would make his Meditations the last great stoic writing.

Some may argue to the point that while Marcus Aurelius was one of the last great stoic philosophers, individuals continued to follow stoic beliefs after his death. That is true, and stoic principles are even present in our day and age mixed in with other philosophies. However,...
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