Jan 01

Marcus Aurelius on Stoicism: Keep Calm and Philosophize On (Prerecorded)

Robert Zaretsky

Robert Zaretsky, author and professor of history in the Honors College at University of Houston, delivered a series of three lectures for WIH he called "Guides for the Perplexed." The second in this series was on Marcus Aurelius, October 21, 2020.

You may not have heard of Marcus Aurelius, but if you have seen the Hollywood blockbuster “Gladiator,” you have met him. Played by the English actor Richard Harris, we first see this Roman emperor hunkered over a table, scribbling furiously onto a sheaf of parchment all the while ignoring—and stealing the movie from—Russell Crowe, who plays the Roman general Maximus. What Marcus Aurelius is writing, at least to those in the know, is his Meditations. These are the private notes that Marcus Aurelius wrote—and never meant to be published—to remind him of the lessons of Stoicism. The book has since become a perennial bestseller. (In fact, since the outbreak of the new coronavirus, Penguin Books reports that sales for its edition of the Meditations have increased over 300 percent.) Marcus is a fascinating figure, first of all, because he was the last of the “good” Roman emperors, but also because, like us, he lived in interesting times. The Roman Empire had reached its greatest size and, as a result, had to contend with the invasion, not just of “barbarian” tribes, but also of the invasion of a plague—in this case, smallpox—that threatened the empire. The great question we will take up is whether one can be both a good ruler and a good philosopher.

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This is Lecture 2/3: Marcus Aurelius

Other lectures in this series available for purchase include:
Lecture 1: Albert Camus on Existentialism: Why We Can’t Live With Absurdity and Why We Can’t Live Without It (Prerecorded)
Lecture 3: Michel de Montaigne on Skepticism: What Do I Know? (Prerecorded)


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