A Stoic Response To Betrayal

Late in his reign, sick and possibly near death, Stoic Emperor Marcus Aurelius received surprising news. His old friend and most trusted general, Avidius Cassius, had rebelled in Syria. Having heard the emperor was vulnerable or possibly dead, the ambitious general declared himself Caesar and assumed the throne. Marcus should have been angry. After all, … Continued

Let This Be Our Finest Hour

Yesterday we wrote about the death of a murderous tyrant and the quiet bravery of those who lived under it. Yesterday was also the anniversary of the death of another kind of leader—one who was so conspicuously brave and who stood so steadfastly for freedom that he could be said to have saved the entire world. That … Continued

The Stoics on Humor

One of the greatest misconceptions surrounding the Stoics is the notion that they lacked a sense of humor. Ralph Waldo Emerson expresses this unfortunate stereotype perfectly in Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli: “I remember that she made me laugh more than I liked; for I was, at that time, an eager scholar of ethics, and had tasted the sweets … Continued

Thus Always To Tyrants

Some 1,977 years ago today, the Roman Emperor Caligula was assassinated by the Praetorian Guard, ending his own reign of murder and madness after just four years. Though Seneca would go on to serve his own mad and murderous emperor, he was no fan of Caligula and Caligula was no fan of Seneca. There is a story … Continued

How To Respond To Unfair Criticism

Despite what a certain current president might like to claim, few politicians and generals were treated worse than Ulysses S. Grant. The newspapers of the Civil War era were horrendous—they were race-baiting, conflict-driven, scandal-rags that didn’t think twice about making up stories if they thought it would sell papers. General Grant was a simple soldier … Continued

What Wealth Teaches

In one of his essays, Seneca lists all the trappings of obscene wealth—a golden roof, purple clothes, marble floors. He describes the life of someone who has been blessed mightily by fate and fortune. They have imposing statues, the most brilliant art, teams of servants. They have country homes and fancy jewelry. What does having all these things … Continued

Hurting Others Hurts You

Someone wounds you, so you want to wound them back. With a harsh remark. By cutting them out of the next project. By putting the word out about them. It’s natural right? The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn puts it beautifully: “Punishing the other person is self-punishment. That is true in every circumstance.” Marcus Aurelius—and indeed … Continued

The Way To React

One criticism of Stoicism and its emphasis on our ability to control our responses to events is that some reactions really are out of our control. If it gets cold, you’ll shiver. If you hear a loud enough noise, it will startle you. Sure, training can reduce some of this but we are biological creatures. … Continued