UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1900: Roman civilization, 2nd century A.D. Bust of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. (Photo By DEA / G. NIMATALLAH/De Agostini/Getty Images)

 

Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor, born nearly two millennia ago (121 – 180). Marcus became the Emperor of the Roman Empire in 161 and ruled for nearly two decades until his death in 180. It is important to realize the gravity of that position and the magnitude of power that Marcus possessed. He held one of—if not the most—powerful positions in the world at the time. If he chose to, nothing would be off limits. There is a reason the adage that power in absolute absolutely corrupts has been repeated throughout history—it unfortunately tends to be true. And yet, as the essayist Matthew Arnold remarked, Marcus proved himself worthy of the position he was in.

Marcus has only one core work, which was actually never intended for publication: his Meditations (originally titled “To Himself”). This is not only one of greatest books ever written but perhaps the only book of its kind. It is the definitive text on self-discipline, personal ethics, humility, self-actualization and strength.

Below are 20 of our favorite quotes from Marcus Aurelius. For more information on the Roman emperor, check out our article Who Is Marcus Aurelius? Getting To Know The Roman Emperor


“Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself.” – Marcus Aurelius

 

“You don’t have to turn this into something. It doesn’t have to upset you.” – Marcus Aurelius

 

“To live a good life: We have the potential for it. If we learn to be indifferent to what makes no difference.” – Marcus Aurelius

 

“It’s silly to try to escape other people’s faults. They are inescapable. Just try to escape your own.” – Marcus Aurelius

 

“Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now take what’s left and live it properly.” – Marcus Aurelius

 

“Because most of what we say and do is not essential. Ask yourself at every moment, “Is this necessary?”” – Marcus Aurelius

 

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” – Marcus Aurelius

 

“It’s unfortunate that this has happened. No. It’s fortunate that this has happened and I’ve remained unharmed.” – Marcus Aurelius

 

“You’re better off not giving the small things more time than they deserve.” – Marcus Aurelius

 

“If it is not right, do not do it, if it is not true, do not say it.” – Marcus Aurelius

 

“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.” – Marcus Aurelius

 

“It’s all in how you perceive it. You’re in control. You can dispense with misperception at will, like rounding the point.” – Marcus Aurelius

 

“It’s a disgrace in this life when the soul surrenders first while the body refuses to.” – Marcus Aurelius

 

“The best revenge is not to be like your enemy.” – Marcus Aurelius

 

“Just that you do the right thing. The rest doesn’t matter.” – Marcus Aurelius

 

“Your mind will take the shape of what you frequently hold in thought, for the human spirit is colored by such impressions.” – Marcus Aurelius

 

“You shouldn’t give circumstances the power to rouse anger, for they don’t care at all.” – Marcus Aurelius

 

“Take a good hard look at people’s ruling principle, especially of the wise, what they run away from & what they seek out.” – Marcus Aurelius

 

“Accept the things to which fate binds you and love the people with whom fate brings you together but do so with all your heart.” – Marcus Aurelius

 

Dig deep within yourself, for there is a fountain of goodness ever ready to flow if you will keep digging.”—Marcus Aurelius