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How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius

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The life-changing principles of Stoicism taught through the story of its most famous proponent. Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius was the final famous Stoic philosopher of the ancient world. The Meditations, his personal journal, survives to this day as one of the most loved self-help and spiritual classics of all time. In How to Think Like a Roman Emperor, cognitive psychother The life-changing principles of Stoicism taught through the story of its most famous proponent. Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius was the final famous Stoic philosopher of the ancient world. The Meditations, his personal journal, survives to this day as one of the most loved self-help and spiritual classics of all time. In How to Think Like a Roman Emperor, cognitive psychotherapist Donald Robertson weaves the life and philosophy of Marcus Aurelius together seamlessly to provide a compelling modern-day guide to the Stoic wisdom followed by countless individuals throughout the centuries as a path to achieving greater fulfillment and emotional resilience. How to Think Like a Roman Emperor takes readers on a transformative journey along with Marcus, following his progress from a young noble at the court of Hadrian—taken under the wing of some of the finest philosophers of his day—through to his reign as emperor of Rome at the height of its power. Robertson shows how Marcus used philosophical doctrines and therapeutic practices to build emotional resilience and endure tremendous adversity, and guides readers through applying the same methods to their own lives. Combining remarkable stories from Marcus’s life with insights from modern psychology and the enduring wisdom of his philosophy, How to Think Like a Roman Emperor puts a human face on Stoicism and offers a timeless and essential guide to handling the ethical and psychological challenges we face today.


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The life-changing principles of Stoicism taught through the story of its most famous proponent. Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius was the final famous Stoic philosopher of the ancient world. The Meditations, his personal journal, survives to this day as one of the most loved self-help and spiritual classics of all time. In How to Think Like a Roman Emperor, cognitive psychother The life-changing principles of Stoicism taught through the story of its most famous proponent. Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius was the final famous Stoic philosopher of the ancient world. The Meditations, his personal journal, survives to this day as one of the most loved self-help and spiritual classics of all time. In How to Think Like a Roman Emperor, cognitive psychotherapist Donald Robertson weaves the life and philosophy of Marcus Aurelius together seamlessly to provide a compelling modern-day guide to the Stoic wisdom followed by countless individuals throughout the centuries as a path to achieving greater fulfillment and emotional resilience. How to Think Like a Roman Emperor takes readers on a transformative journey along with Marcus, following his progress from a young noble at the court of Hadrian—taken under the wing of some of the finest philosophers of his day—through to his reign as emperor of Rome at the height of its power. Robertson shows how Marcus used philosophical doctrines and therapeutic practices to build emotional resilience and endure tremendous adversity, and guides readers through applying the same methods to their own lives. Combining remarkable stories from Marcus’s life with insights from modern psychology and the enduring wisdom of his philosophy, How to Think Like a Roman Emperor puts a human face on Stoicism and offers a timeless and essential guide to handling the ethical and psychological challenges we face today.

30 review for How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius

  1. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    I was lucky to get a free copy via NetGalley for my true and honest opinion. I really enjoyed this book! I absolutely loved reading Marcus Aurelius book the Meditation. In How to Think Like a Roman Emperor, cognitive psychotherapist Donald Robertson weaves the life and philosophy of Marcus Aurelius together seamlessly to provide a compelling modern-day guide to the Stoic wisdom followed by countless individuals throughout the centuries as a path to achieving greater fulfillment and emotional resi I was lucky to get a free copy via NetGalley for my true and honest opinion. I really enjoyed this book! I absolutely loved reading Marcus Aurelius book the Meditation. In How to Think Like a Roman Emperor, cognitive psychotherapist Donald Robertson weaves the life and philosophy of Marcus Aurelius together seamlessly to provide a compelling modern-day guide to the Stoic wisdom followed by countless individuals throughout the centuries as a path to achieving greater fulfillment and emotional resilience Obviously, I would love this book. I definitely recommend it for all those who love philosophy or want to learn more about stoicism or Marcus Aurelius. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    It seems stoicism has been enjoying a resurgence of late and being intrigued by different schools of philosophical thought and educating myself on each of them I simply couldn't resist nabbing a copy of this. The ideas central to stoicism are woven into the biographical account of one of the most important writers and Stoic philosophers of his time. What I found most impressive about the book was its accessibility - even those who know little about philosophy, in general, should be able to read It seems stoicism has been enjoying a resurgence of late and being intrigued by different schools of philosophical thought and educating myself on each of them I simply couldn't resist nabbing a copy of this. The ideas central to stoicism are woven into the biographical account of one of the most important writers and Stoic philosophers of his time. What I found most impressive about the book was its accessibility - even those who know little about philosophy, in general, should be able to read and understand this text without issue. We in Britain tend to be labelled as the most likely to subscribe to stoicism when it comes to the continent of Europe so we should all be interested in the subject. With the current state of the world, this is an interesting and sensible outlook that many people are adopting. Discussing the core concepts of stoicism alongside cognitive behavioural therapy is a thought-provoking approach and is exceptionally well written and researched, it appears. Often philosophy books can alienate those who want to educate themselves on these ideas but Mr Robertson keeps it down to earth and concise. This is a book that has the potential to be life-changing and the comparison made between stoic wisdom and CBT absolutely fascinated me. The helpful hints of how to incorporate stoicism into your day to day life are a great way to move towards emotional resilience and hopefully a happier and more fulfilled life. Many thanks to St Martin's Press for an ARC.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Boissonneault

    Stoicism is a practical philosophy that emphasizes rationality and virtue as the only true goods. Unlike other religious or spiritual practices, Stoicism does not require that you abandon reason or strain your grip on reality; rather, it provides an ethical orientation to life that is fully consistent with our nature as rational, social beings. Stoicism therefore embraces the original Greek conception of philosophy as a way of life, a subject matter to be practiced rather than simply studied. Fa Stoicism is a practical philosophy that emphasizes rationality and virtue as the only true goods. Unlike other religious or spiritual practices, Stoicism does not require that you abandon reason or strain your grip on reality; rather, it provides an ethical orientation to life that is fully consistent with our nature as rational, social beings. Stoicism therefore embraces the original Greek conception of philosophy as a way of life, a subject matter to be practiced rather than simply studied. Far removed from the logical hair splitting of academic philosophy, Stoicism is about living well, with an emphasis on ethics and the attainment of true contentment and excellence of character. That means that mastering the art of Stoicism is no easy task; it requires putting theory into practice and patiently developing appropriate habits of mind that cannot come from simply reading a book, memorizing a few principles, and moving on. This is why, to truly master Stoicism, it helps to have a mentor, not in the sense of an all-knowing guru who will tell you exactly how to think and act, but in the sense of having someone with admirable character traits to emulate. This is what makes How to Think Like a Roman Emperor by Donald Robertson an ideal introduction to the practice of Stoicism. It combines the theory of Stoicism—corroborated by the latest therapeutic techniques of modern psychology—with the biographical details of a Stoic master worth emulating, Marcus Aurelius. Marcus relied on mentors himself; in fact, in Book 1 of Meditations, Marcus provides a list of his mentors and their associated character traits that he would use to model his own behavior. Marcus was greatly influenced by Socrates, Seneca, Epictetus, and his own personal philosophy tutors. Marcus would often contemplate how these Stoic masters would themselves handle certain situations while also benefiting from personal instruction. While having a mentor is important, most of us do not personally know a Stoic master who is available 24/7 to critique our attitudes and behavior. But there’s another option, one that Marcus used himself after his most valued personal mentor, Junius Rusticus, passed away. Marcus would imagine that his mentor, or a group of mentors he respected, were constantly watching over his actions, and that he would need to explain his actions to a tribunal of philosophers at the end of each day. This allowed Marcus to continue to benefit from the personal instruction of Rusticus, even after Rusticus’s death, if only in his imagination. And it is the same technique the reader can use to benefit from the personal instruction of Marcus Aurelius. How to Think Like a Roman Emperor allows the reader to learn more about the life and thought of Marcus Aurelius for the purpose of establishing an imagined mentorship in the manner practiced by the great Stoics. This puts a face to the philosophy and brings the ideas to life, while providing a Stoic ideal for the reader to strive for. Marcus, of course, was not only a Stoic philosopher; he was also a leader, the emperor of Rome. If anyone deserves the title of Plato’s “philosopher king,” it’s Marcus Aurelius, and if any Stoic is truly worth emulating, it’s also probably him. So what can Marcus teach us? Since Marcus modeled his behavior according to a hypothetical Stoic ideal, we can all use Marcus’s own character traits as a model for our own character development. In that respect, what follows is a brief summary of the character traits and habits of mind of Marcus Aurelius that we would all benefit from emulating. To begin with, the modern idea that we are all slaves to our passions, or that reason is slave to emotion, is patently false. If it were true, we would constantly indulge our appetites, sacrificing our health and never saving or planning for the future. We can all clearly make decisions that sacrifice immediate gratification for future benefits. Reason, therefore, is of primary importance for the Stoic, what they called our “ruling faculty.” As Robertson wrote: “Stoics argued that humans are first and foremost thinking creatures, capable of exercising reason. Although we share many instincts with other animals, our ability to think rationally is what makes us human….It allows us to evaluate our thoughts, feelings, and urges and to decide if they are good or bad, healthy or unhealthy.” The use of reason is the only way to modify unhealthy habits, which are usually the result of blindly following our emotions. Our most natural reactions are often the most harmful. Marcus, for example, had to battle with severe outbursts of anger when he was younger. However, despite being predisposed psychologically to bouts of anger, Marcus trained himself to act more reasonably and calmly, even in the face of betrayal by his general Gaius Avidius Cassius, who declared himself emperor and started a civil war. Marcus reminded himself that people act according to what they think is right, and if they act dishonorably, they do so in error and therefore deserve our sympathy rather than our contempt. That Marcus didn’t lose his cool doesn’t mean that he did nothing; he calmly and efficiently mobilized his forces and ultimately was victorious against Cassius. But he did so without undue emotional distress. Marcus reminded himself that without misfortune and difficulty, there is no opportunity to practice virtue. As Marcus wrote in Meditations, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” Marcus replaced a negative emotion, anger, with sympathy, understanding, and action. Marcus did not have an easy life: out of 13 children, he lived to see 8 of them die; he suffered from ulcers and other chronic physical ailments; he experienced constant warfare and political instability; and he dealt with the strain and stress of managing an empire. Yet he found the courage to confront these challenges effectively and without complaint, because he realized all events, whether considered good or bad, were simply opportunities to practice virtue and develop character. Marcus no doubt would have preferred health, wealth, and peace, and did what he could to attain them, but he did not waste time in grief or anxiety for things not within his direct control, nor did he waste time in pursuit of material objects or fleeting pleasures at the expense of his philosophical development. Marcus therefore employed reason and wisdom to display courage, moderation, and emotional mastery. When a difficulty arose, he would simply say, calmly and dispassionately, “what next?” Marcus understood the difference between events and judgements, and how judgments are ultimately the cause of suffering. As Marcus said, “You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” At this point, there are two common but unfounded criticisms of Stoicism that I want to address. The first is that Stoics are unemotional. This is not true, for the simple reason that it’s not possible. You can’t eliminate emotions, you can only control them and replace initial negative emotions with positive ones, like Marcus did by managing his bouts of anger and replacing them with deep sympathy even for his enemies. Stoics, far from being unemotional, experience a profound sense of joy by living according to reason and wisdom and in helping others achieve the same. The second misconception is that Stoicism makes one apathetic to public life and civic responsibility. Marcus, being the emperor of Rome and all, should make it obvious how wrong this is. But there’s a deeper explanation for why this is incorrect. Robertson explains this best: “In addition to believing that humans are essentially thinking creatures capable of reason, the Stoics also believed that human nature is inherently social. They started from the premise that under normal conditions we typically have a bond of “natural affection” toward our children. (If we didn’t, as we know, our offspring would be less likely to survive and pass on our genes.) This bond of natural affection also tends to extend to other loved ones, such as spouses, parents, siblings, and close friends. The Stoics believed that as we mature in wisdom we increasingly identify with our own capacity for reason, but we also begin to identify with others insofar as they’re capable of reason. In other words, the wise man extends moral consideration to all rational creatures and views them, in a sense, as his brothers and sisters. That’s why the Stoics described their ideal as cosmopolitanism, or being ‘citizens of the universe’—a phrase attributed both to Socrates and Diogenes the Cynic.” As Robertson further notes, the concepts of justice, kindness, fairness, and ethical cosmopolitanism are found throughout the Meditations. Marcus, despite being a Stoic, displays a rich emotional life full of contemplation, action, joy, contentment, justice, kindness, and civic responsibility. From all of this we get a good idea of how Marcus would think and act in various situations, and this provides a great template by which we can develop our own character in accordance with the Stoic ideal. For those truly interested in mastering Stoicism, it’s helpful to ask yourself, could you justify your actions to Marcus at the end of each day. The next time you’re overwhelmed by anger or anxiety, work to replace your negative emotions with positive ones. The next time you face a crisis or difficult situation, ask yourself which virtue this allows you to practice. Over time, and with dedication, you might come to find, as Marcus certainly did, that life and all its chaos is nothing more than the opportunity to practice virtue, guided by the ideals of reason, wisdom, justice, and kindness. ---- Also check out this post I wrote titled A Short Guide to the Practice of Stoicism.

  4. 5 out of 5

    John S.

    It's a sort of mashup between history, historical fiction, self-help and philosophy manual. That may sound funny, but it works! and the different genre like aspects are blended seamlessly, artfully, and beautifully. Some first person narratives are quite poignant (i.e. yeah, I cried!). Mr. Robertson stays as close to the history (as we know it) as possible, and even has a few unique ideas about what could have been happening (especially between the ears) which may have escaped prior historians, w It's a sort of mashup between history, historical fiction, self-help and philosophy manual. That may sound funny, but it works! and the different genre like aspects are blended seamlessly, artfully, and beautifully. Some first person narratives are quite poignant (i.e. yeah, I cried!). Mr. Robertson stays as close to the history (as we know it) as possible, and even has a few unique ideas about what could have been happening (especially between the ears) which may have escaped prior historians, who may not have been as conversant with Stoicism as a philosophy. Also, the history is exciting! And, Donald does it justice with his storytelling ability. Where the author excels however is bringing his main source, the perennial work (The Meditations) into the 21st century, having a strong clinical background in evidence-based Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Through the lens of what is robust in today's psychological sciences, we can see some of the things these old Stoics may have (most likely have) been actually doing in order to cope with crushing loss and enduring physical and mental hardships. People of the past were historically tougher than we are right now, even a few generations ago. Times in the ancient world were positively brutal, where plagues and holocausts were the rule rather than the exception, and these Stoics were considered tough even by the standards of those days. Stoicism is witnessing a resurgence at the moment, and at a time when it's very much needed. After reading this book I look at the Meditations in a whole new way, as well as the limits of what can be accomplished by any of us as human beings, for ourselves, and for our society.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    This book takes a historical account of the life of Marcus Aurelius as well as passages from Aurelius' The Meditations and shows how to apply the lessons learned from these sources in a modern context, using a framework that is largely derived from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). The author is trained in both Stoic philosophy and CBT, which are closely related. As the author notes in the introduction, Aaron Beck (one of the founders of CBT) has acknowledged that "[t]he philosophical origins This book takes a historical account of the life of Marcus Aurelius as well as passages from Aurelius' The Meditations and shows how to apply the lessons learned from these sources in a modern context, using a framework that is largely derived from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). The author is trained in both Stoic philosophy and CBT, which are closely related. As the author notes in the introduction, Aaron Beck (one of the founders of CBT) has acknowledged that "[t]he philosophical origins of cognitive therapy can be traced back to the Stoic philosophers." (p.9) Each chapter has a central theme that is illustrated using examples from Aurelius' life. Such themes include anger management, dealing with chronic pain, and changing bad habits. After the initial historical account, most chapters then move into a practical "how-to" sort of discussion that includes a lot of numbered lists. Many chapters conclude with a summary of the key points that the author intended for the reader to takeaway from the chapter. I appreciated this strong organizational structure. A lot of themes are repeated throughout the book. For example, The Meditations (which is a personal diary of sorts) starts with a list of people whom Aurelius admired, with Aurelius acknowledging gratitude for what he had learned from each listed individual. The author suggests that readers can use the same sort of technique--i.e., imagine what someone you admire would do in a particular situation and try to model your behavior accordingly. Another example would be the idea that cognition--rather than emotions--can drive behavior. Although an initial emotional reaction to a situation is often involuntary, generally at some point the person has the ability to step back and make a decision as to whether feeding that initial emotional reaction is healthy or not. In other words, even if rational thought does not drive one's immediate response, after that immediate reaction it is often possible to create a space for cognition to drive emotion rather than the other way around. A final example would be the calm acceptance of the fact that usually all one can control is his or her best efforts; one cannot entirely control the actual outcome of most things in life. The author describes this attitude as the "stoic reserve clause," which is often phrased as a caveat such as "fate permitting" or "God willing." I already knew some of the basic aspects of Marcus Aurelius' life, but I learned more detail from reading this book. I also knew that there was a connection between Stoic philosophy and CBT, but this book explained that connection in an easy-to-understand manner. Overall, I highly recommend this book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Enso

    "How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius" is a new work by Donald Robertson on Stoicism through the lens of Marcus Aurelius. As a change of pace, I listened to the audiobook of it, as it was read by the author and I often enjoy hearing authors read their own works. In this I was not disappointed. Robertson is a well known modern Stoic proponent, being involved in many of the organized activities online and off to promote Stoicism and an understanding of it. I've "How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius" is a new work by Donald Robertson on Stoicism through the lens of Marcus Aurelius. As a change of pace, I listened to the audiobook of it, as it was read by the author and I often enjoy hearing authors read their own works. In this I was not disappointed. Robertson is a well known modern Stoic proponent, being involved in many of the organized activities online and off to promote Stoicism and an understanding of it. I've enjoyed reading his blog posts on the topic. He's also written on the very explicit connections between Stoicism and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in the past, including a book on the topic as well. In this text, Robertson uses the life and writings of Marcus Aurelius to show us Robertson's understanding of Stoicism as a practical path, along with a philosophical one. Through a combination of content from Aurelius' "Meditations" and relating it to techniques used in modern psychotherapy, Robertson shows the philosophical ideas and intent behind Marcus Aurelius' Stoicism and how you can apply these techniques in a _practical_ fashion in daily life. This last bit was the most important to me. There are many, many books on Stoicism, either modern interpretations or explanations by scholars, but practical application is often difficult to find. By that I mean the texts contain ideas but, often, one has to puzzle how you would do that every day or incorporate it into your life in order to put it into practice. Robertson has made that a bit easier and I found, while listening to the book, that I wished that my notebook handy so I could write down notes and make a checklist of things. (Fortunately, I also have the hardcover so I have been able to revisit this later.) This practical focus and immediate relationship to the world makes this, hands down, the best of the recent Stoic works published. I want to offer Robertson real kudos for making a nice, well contained, and focused introduction. This is the book that I'm suggesting to my friends now when they show an interest in Stoicism and want to read more.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Steve Eubank

    The subtitle is ironic & an important clarification as certainly not every Roman emperor’s thought process is worth emulating; indeed, Marcus Aurelius is the exception because he “viewed himself as a Stoic 1st & an emperor 2nd.” This book is particularly instructive when read in conjunction with Massimo Pigliucci’s 2017 “How to Be a Stoic,” which is an imaginary dialogue between a modern-day student & the Stoic philosopher Epictetus. Marcus Aurelius was most influenced by Epictetus. The subtitle is ironic & an important clarification as certainly not every Roman emperor’s thought process is worth emulating; indeed, Marcus Aurelius is the exception because he “viewed himself as a Stoic 1st & an emperor 2nd.” This book is particularly instructive when read in conjunction with Massimo Pigliucci’s 2017 “How to Be a Stoic,” which is an imaginary dialogue between a modern-day student & the Stoic philosopher Epictetus. Marcus Aurelius was most influenced by Epictetus. Although Marcus & Epictetus never met, Epictetus’ student Arrian had compiled his teachings as the “Discourses” & “Handbook” & Marcus was instructed in Stoicism from these works. In contrast, Marcus did not write what ended up being his contribution to philosophy, the “Meditations” in order to teach anyone; it was more akin to a journal of personal thoughts written in his tent at night as he fought barbarian tribes on the fringes of the empire. So rather than a modern dialogue with a classical philosopher like “How to Be a Stoic,” “How to Think Like a Roman Emperor” is more of a biographical account of a great person’s development through Stoic reflection & how such a technique is applied today via Cognitive Behavioral Therapy & other methods. The last chapter breaks from biography to take the reader through a guided Stoic meditation process that Marcus might’ve used if he’d lived in modern times. Between “How to Be a Stoic” & “How to Think Like a Roman Emperor” one learns the principles of Stoicism, their relevance today, & how to incorporate them into a meaningful & resilient approach to life.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Hugo Ahlberg

    Disclosure: I received a pre-release copy from the publisher. This book is a great introduction to both Marcus Aurelius and Stoic philosophy. It blends the biography of the roman emperor with the philosophy and history of stoicism, and the author ties it all together in a great way. In fact, having already read Meditations I found the biography and the stories about Marcus and the people around him to be the most interesting parts of this book. It gives the philosophy a lot more texture than jus Disclosure: I received a pre-release copy from the publisher. This book is a great introduction to both Marcus Aurelius and Stoic philosophy. It blends the biography of the roman emperor with the philosophy and history of stoicism, and the author ties it all together in a great way. In fact, having already read Meditations I found the biography and the stories about Marcus and the people around him to be the most interesting parts of this book. It gives the philosophy a lot more texture than just reading Marcus own words. That is not to say you should skip Meditations, but rather that they go really well together. This is a great companion book to Meditations. (I’d love to see other books like this of other great classical philosophers like Socrates, Plato etc. If you know of any please let me know)

  9. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    I really enjoyed this one! It was well written and very straight forward for someone who isn’t working towards a PhD or some type of degree! LOL. I enjoy reading about all Things Roman, most especially the Emperor world. Having the philosophical attitude, mindset towards our mortality does allow you to feel more “free”, I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to learn more about Rome, emperor’s and even simple philosophy.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ro Laberee

    Do not act as if you will live 10,000 years. Death hangs over you. While you live, while it is in your power, be good I really didn't want this book to end - and it was work ; not a beach read. The wisdom that poured from each chapter had a hypnotic effect, which felt like so much relief from life's storms. I think it actually lowered my blood pressure every time I picked it up and read. Donald Robertson took an old topic and breathed new life into it creating a truly unique brew - kind of a m Do not act as if you will live 10,000 years. Death hangs over you. While you live, while it is in your power, be good I really didn't want this book to end - and it was work ; not a beach read. The wisdom that poured from each chapter had a hypnotic effect, which felt like so much relief from life's storms. I think it actually lowered my blood pressure every time I picked it up and read. Donald Robertson took an old topic and breathed new life into it creating a truly unique brew - kind of a modern-day antidote to confusion and anxiety. And I'm hooked on the topic of Stoic philosophy. One snapshot: An emperor is facing assaults from barbarian tribes (as well as unrest among his own!) but he stops to consider the most virtuous course and he takes measured steps to dispel feelings of revenge or anger before considering his actions -- wow, that is humbling. The author segues from history, to Stoic philosophy, to modern cognitive behavior therapy with grace and art. The sensible and peaceful mind that Marcus Aurelius cultivated was revealed and then recast into the 21st century so that we can learn to harness the power of Stoic thinking, too. I especially enjoyed learning about the people who had the greatest influence on Marcus Aurelius. Epictetus is up next on my to-read list! I loved this book and know I will return to it often. Failure to observe what is in the mind of another has seldom made a man unhappy; but those who do not observe the movements of their own minds must of necessity be unhappy.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Stefan Andrei

    Probably one of the most “digestible” books on stoic philosophy. The entire work is consisted of biographical passages of Marcus Aurelius and follows his life from his younger years and his teachers to his last years and deathbed; analysis of passages from his written work “Meditations” and parallels with modern psychotherapy and practical applications. Highly enjoyable read, recommended to newcomers and veteran readers on the topic. I listened to this on Audible and the narration was perfect.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Miklos

    Robertson is uniquely suited to talk about Stoicism and its therapeutic applications. I found this to be a strong compliment to Pigliuccis How to Be a Stoic, although written less like a philosophical treatise and more like a psychological guide. If you admire Marcus Aurelius and want to fold his life into stoic teachings, this is a terrific book for you.

  13. 5 out of 5

    GONZA

    I liked this book a lot, mostly because of the comparison between stoicism and the cognitive behavioral therapy. I am a long time fan of Marco Aurelio, even before the movie "Gladiator" or the book of Marguerite Yourcenar made him a well known Emperor between all the others, but I still think he was one of the best and Everybody should read his Meditations. Questo libro mi é piaciuto molto, fondamentalmente grazie ai paragoni che l'autore faceva costantemente trai principi stoici e quelli che reg I liked this book a lot, mostly because of the comparison between stoicism and the cognitive behavioral therapy. I am a long time fan of Marco Aurelio, even before the movie "Gladiator" or the book of Marguerite Yourcenar made him a well known Emperor between all the others, but I still think he was one of the best and Everybody should read his Meditations. Questo libro mi é piaciuto molto, fondamentalmente grazie ai paragoni che l'autore faceva costantemente trai principi stoici e quelli che regolano la terapia cognitivo comportamentale. Inoltre sono da molto molto tempo una grande fan di Marco Aurelio, prima che ascendesse agli onori della cronaca per via del film "Il gladiatore" o il libro della Yourcenar (Le memorie di Adriano): Lo ritengo uno dei principali imperatori romani, specialmente se paragonato alla maggior parte di loro e penso che sarebbe molto importante che ognuno di noi leggesse le "Meditazioni". THANKS NETGALLEY FOR THE PREVIEW!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    Donald Robertson's latest book, How to Think Like a Roman Emperor, is a worthwhile addition to any practicing Stoic's library. Within it, Donald builds a case for the efficacy of Stoic practice and also provides a rich variety of tools for direct engagement with the philosophy. He does this through the lens of Marcus Aurelius's life. Drawing from the historical record and, of course, from Marcus's own writings, Donald weaves a tale that presents a living man; a real person who had to work hard t Donald Robertson's latest book, How to Think Like a Roman Emperor, is a worthwhile addition to any practicing Stoic's library. Within it, Donald builds a case for the efficacy of Stoic practice and also provides a rich variety of tools for direct engagement with the philosophy. He does this through the lens of Marcus Aurelius's life. Drawing from the historical record and, of course, from Marcus's own writings, Donald weaves a tale that presents a living man; a real person who had to work hard to better himself and who sought to live up to the high ideals of his life philosophy. The reader is invited to watch the Emperor struggle, learn, and progress. We see a Stoic living life, and this example allows opportunity for personal reflection as to how we ourselves can apply Stoicism in life. When I began the book, I was a bit concerned that the material would prove too familiar. I read The Meditations regularly and also understand the basic outline of Emperor Aurelius's life. I was happy to find instead that I was engaged throughout the experience. I was well acquainted with much of the material but, even so, Donald's storytelling made everything feel fresh. The reader is presented with a biography of an emperor and a Stoic but the emphasis is not specifically on the great losses and victories of his life and reign, but on how such moments in the man's life shaped his philosophy and spurred his progress during his Stoic journey. My time with the book was a meditative experience. I was able to watch Marcus wield the very same Stoic practices, tools, and viewpoints that I apply in the day to day. Walking alongside this representation of a fellow Stoic's life allowed for reflection on my own journey. I'm excited for those who will be introduced to Stoicism through this book. How to Think Like a Roman Emperor, presents a Stoicism that is well-rounded, practical, and healthy. The reader will gain an understanding of the shape of our philosophy while also finding ways to apply it to their lives. More importantly, Donald presents a philosophy that is worth wrestling with. He shows us that Stoicism is a loving and joyful thing. That's an important aspect of any Stoic introduction. My personal introduction to Stoic philosophy was Bill Irvine's , A Guide to the Good Life. Other's have recently been finding their way through Massimo Pigliucci's, How to Be a Stoic. Both of these books succeed because they present not just a life philosophy but a lived-in philosophy. We see that Stoicism can become part of a real life. Like these books, How to Think Like a Roman Emperor, presents not just the facts of the philosophy but its vibrant spirit. Anyone who starts on the Stoic path through this book will be well provisioned for their journey. I also enjoy knowing that if any of these new practitioners ask me, "what's the next book for me, I'd like to know more," I could simply point them to one of Donald Robertson's earlier books, Stoicism and the Art of Happiness. If they weren't from different publishing houses, I'd suggest the books be bundled as a modern Stoic starter pack. Taken together, a person will gain a robust understanding of Stoicism along with ample instruction as to practical application. How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius, is beneficial for both the practicing Stoic and those who are curious about the philosophical life. We are fortunate to have access, through Marcus Aurelius, to the private thoughts of an ancient Stoic practitioner. In political position and in time, Marcus is far removed from us and yet in practice he was simply a person trying his best to live up to his own ideals. I can certainly relate. I'm pleased to have had the chance to read this book. Donald Robertson has added something unique to the Stoic corpus. I enthusiastically recommend it to you.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Joey Lee

    A true masterpiece, Donald's book strikes a rarefied and highly accomplished balance of: presenting clear and practical information on - and exercises for - harnessing greater control over your life, the philosophical origin of the information, and modern therapeutic justifications for why this all works (Donald is an accomplished psychologist with over twenty years of experience in the field), all encapsulated in the very compelling story of the Roman emperor touted the last of the "Five Good E A true masterpiece, Donald's book strikes a rarefied and highly accomplished balance of: presenting clear and practical information on - and exercises for - harnessing greater control over your life, the philosophical origin of the information, and modern therapeutic justifications for why this all works (Donald is an accomplished psychologist with over twenty years of experience in the field), all encapsulated in the very compelling story of the Roman emperor touted the last of the "Five Good Emperors," Marcus Aurelius. This might seem like a lot to take in and truth be told, if you're an absolute newcomer with no exposure to philosophy, meditation, therapy, or religion, then you may struggle a little, however, the language is clear, the ideas well-explained, and like many other Stoic texts, it's succinct at only 269 pages so I invite you to give this a read no matter what your background - you have only wisdom to gain and nothing to lose. The author also recorded an audiobook version that's very good, too, if an audio format is more to your liking. For those who may be reading this review and are - like me a couple of years ago - wondering what value there is, if any, in reading a book on Greek and Roman philosophy (as primarily categorized on Amazon), know that this is not a boring, academic text, but rather an engaging story and manual for how to become the best version of yourself possible while also minimizing negative emotions from your life such as anxiety, depression, fear, greed, etc. and the corresponding consequences that result from them. You should also know that you'd be in good company - Stoicism as a philosophy has been studied and used as a toolkit by political and business leaders as well as other important historical figures the world over like Frederick the Great, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, Theodore Roosevelt, Bill Clinton, James Stockdale and countless more (in addition to popular sports franchises like the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks). I can't extol the virtues of this book enough. You should read it. You should internalize it. And with some effort, you'll become a much, much better version of yourself.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Franklin Annis

    This is the type of book that could change a generation. Robertson does a remarkable job in introducing the Stoic philosophy through the life story of Marcus Aurelius. This book is rather unique in its mix of history, psychology, and self-development practices. Not only does Robertson explain the advantages of the Stoic philosophy and how Marcus Aurelius used this philosophy to great effect, Robertson provides practical self-development methods for the reader to take advantage of this philosophy This is the type of book that could change a generation. Robertson does a remarkable job in introducing the Stoic philosophy through the life story of Marcus Aurelius. This book is rather unique in its mix of history, psychology, and self-development practices. Not only does Robertson explain the advantages of the Stoic philosophy and how Marcus Aurelius used this philosophy to great effect, Robertson provides practical self-development methods for the reader to take advantage of this philosophy in his/her own life. This book will bring a deeper meaning to the reading of the Meditations. This would definitely be within the top five books that I would want every young military leader to read. It would also be a wonderful gift for any young man. Our society would be much improved if we returned to focus on virtue in our daily lives.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jared Abbott

    This is my favorite book that I have read so far this year. Donald Robertson's writing style is clear and simple without being simplistic. It has a familiar quality to it--it's less like reading the thoughts of a distinguished expert on Stoicism and more like a friend who happens to be thoroughly aquainted with Stoic philosophy, CBT, and Roman history. Most Stoicism books describe the keys concepts of the philosophy, with some history to provide context and a few stories to support the concepts. This is my favorite book that I have read so far this year. Donald Robertson's writing style is clear and simple without being simplistic. It has a familiar quality to it--it's less like reading the thoughts of a distinguished expert on Stoicism and more like a friend who happens to be thoroughly aquainted with Stoic philosophy, CBT, and Roman history. Most Stoicism books describe the keys concepts of the philosophy, with some history to provide context and a few stories to support the concepts. How to Think Like a Roman Emperor differs in that Robertson tells the true story of Emperor Marcus Aurelius and then describes the ideas of Stoic philosophy. The book is essentially a an extended version of the Stoic excercise known as "contemplating the sage," written down for the readers' benefit. This is a highly effective way of communicating Stoic philosophy.

  18. 4 out of 5

    ZaibatsuRandom

    Fabulous book. As I get more and more into Stoic philosophy, I am happy to find more and more great books on the topic. This is an excellent place to start, especially for those looking for a more scientific approach. Besides the excellent flow of the book, interspersed with the historical details of Marcus Aurelius's life and their connection to the philosophy, Professor Robertson connects the techniques with those of modern therapies. I personally appreciate the overlap with 12 step recovery p Fabulous book. As I get more and more into Stoic philosophy, I am happy to find more and more great books on the topic. This is an excellent place to start, especially for those looking for a more scientific approach. Besides the excellent flow of the book, interspersed with the historical details of Marcus Aurelius's life and their connection to the philosophy, Professor Robertson connects the techniques with those of modern therapies. I personally appreciate the overlap with 12 step recovery practices, though the author only makes one mention in the book. I think Ryan Holiday fleshes it out more, but anyone who has spent time in a 12 Step group and really paid attention will see the connections. It's was also very common for early AA members to read The Meditations as part of their recovery practice. Highly recommended!

  19. 5 out of 5

    The Motivated Rambler

    When I first learned about Stoicism, I was stunned. It made so much sense to me that it ultimately changed how I saw the world and myself in it. It started with Ryan Holiday and Tim Ferris, which at the time, became my favorite authors and mentors of the philosophy. Over the years, however, those two individuals have turned it into a business. Selling coins, journals, and meditation packs; who knows what they'll come up with next. And although I still recommend some of their work, How To Think L When I first learned about Stoicism, I was stunned. It made so much sense to me that it ultimately changed how I saw the world and myself in it. It started with Ryan Holiday and Tim Ferris, which at the time, became my favorite authors and mentors of the philosophy. Over the years, however, those two individuals have turned it into a business. Selling coins, journals, and meditation packs; who knows what they'll come up with next. And although I still recommend some of their work, How To Think Like A Roman Emperor does the best job in explaining the philosophy as a whole and how the reader can implement the life-changing strategies of Marcus, Epictetus, and Seneca into one's way of living. If you read one book in your life, this is the one you want.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Matt Fay

    This has perhaps become my favorite book. I’ve been a follower of Stoicism since 2012, and have read many of the ancient classics, such as Epictetus, Seneca, Musonius Rufus, and of course, Marcus Aurelius. I’ve also had the joy to read many of the modern books on Stoicism as well – but they don't quite compare to this book. Donald Robertson has gifted the world with his expert interpretation of Stoic philosophy, providing us all with the psychological tools we’d need in order to completely change This has perhaps become my favorite book. I’ve been a follower of Stoicism since 2012, and have read many of the ancient classics, such as Epictetus, Seneca, Musonius Rufus, and of course, Marcus Aurelius. I’ve also had the joy to read many of the modern books on Stoicism as well – but they don't quite compare to this book. Donald Robertson has gifted the world with his expert interpretation of Stoic philosophy, providing us all with the psychological tools we’d need in order to completely change our lives, as well as an entertaining look of Marcus’s life, and so much more. Whether your interest is Stoicism, Marcus Aurelius (Roman Emperors), Ancient Rome, modern psychology, or are just looking for a book that will help you better your life, this book should be on the top of your list.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    Robertson is a practicing stoic and a psychologist. In this book he weaves the biography of Marcus Aurelius, the philosophy of stoicism and the findings of modern science. Why I started this book: Ran across the title while I was browsing Audible, but my Overdrive library purchased a copy for me... Why I finished it: Not what I was expecting but also fascinating. I may have to do more research on stoicism. Also, I loved the narrator's Scottish accent.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Pincus

    This book presents a blend of psychobiography, historical fiction, Stoicism, and cognitive behavioral therapy to introduce Stoic practices to help readers live according to their nature. Having read Marcus, Epictetus, and Seneca already, this book provided a different lens to study Stoic philosophy. It was very helpful to revisit the Meditations this way. It's highly readable, nicely paced, and accessible for those new to Stoicism.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Daryll

    A nice mix of philosophy, psychology, history, and on the basis of stoicism (mostly in the life of Marcus Aurelius) and it's teachings. A good read for those who enjoyed Marcus' Meditations or if you enjoy any of the before named subject matters. Side note: If Marcus lived in modern times I think his favorite song would be "Float On" by Modest Mouse. Just a thought.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Keenan Bullington

    A book necessary for anyone looking to improve themselves. This work truly guides you through Marcus Aurelius' "Meditations". This can truly help form anyone who reads it into a more full and prepared person. The ending chapter where we see all of the philosophical teachings in motion as Marcus accepts death is amazing, though it certainly is chilling.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Annarella

    A fascinating and interesting book about a fascinating and interesting character, Marcus Aurelius. It's great to see how we can apply now his philosophy and how his philosophy can still be modern and applied to our current lifestyle. Highly recommended! Many thanks to St. Martin's Press and Netgalley for this ARC

  26. 4 out of 5

    CJ Fairhart

    This was such an interesting read. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is one of my all-time favorites and this book provided a really unique and fresh take on Stoicism and his personal philosophy. It felt a bit "self-helpish" at some points, which bored me, as I generally dislike self-help books, but if you're into philosophy and Ancient Roman history, I'd recommend it.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Chris Jenson

    A very good resource for those interested in Stoicism. Robertson connects Stoic ideas with modern ideas in Cognitive Behavioral therapy in useful ways. One can gain a lot of useful insights from this book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sparkles10

    In this interesting book, Robertson traces the roots of CBT to Stoic principles. For more on Stoicism and its relevance, "A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy" by William B. Irvine is a good read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Douglas Brown

    Truly a great book. - bit of history and philosophy. An easy and fun read! Is my favorite book of stoicism so far! Highly recommended!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Peabody

    Enjoyed the read. I wish I would have read this prior to reading The meditations though. Maybe a re-read of it is in order now. Anyway, great read. If you're on the fence, read it.

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