How to Think Like a Roman Emperor Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: How to Think Like a Roman Emperor combines the story of famous Stoic and Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius with lessons from modern psychology to help you become more emotionally resilient and develop the strength to overcome even the most challenging circumstances.

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How to Think Like a Roman Emperor Summary

History remembers the names of few admirable people throughout time. One of them is Marcus Aurelius, one of the greatest Roman emperors. Besides having ruled the Roman empire with great success, he was an outstanding thinker. His meaningful yet straightforward approach to life led him to become a pragmatic leader. He always took calculated risks, had a deep sense of meaning in life, and put things into perspective. 

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor by Donald J. Robertson explores Marcus’ life and the rationale behind the Stoic way of thinking. By applying this philosophy to our own lives, we can learn how to tackle challenges and build inner strength, all while living virtuously.

Here are the three main ideas from the book that we should remember and try to implement in our lives:

  1. We come from nature, and we’ll return to it eventually, so it’s only logical to live in agreement with it.
  2. Life is about constant improvement, which is why we should all work on our virtues every day.
  3. Stoics know there’s no point in worrying over what you can’t control, so best just make your peace with it.

Now, let’s truly master these lessons by looking at them in detail!

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Lesson 1: Living virtuously implies being in harmony with nature.

Stoic philosophers believed in living a simple yet meaningful life. Essentially, this implies getting closer to the natural world and living in alignment with nature and harmony with the world order. Stoics also built their philosophy on ration and logical reasoning, this implies being content with the life you’ve been given. Not questioning it, but rather just living it. In other words, to live in agreement with nature, you must first accept your condition and make peace with the life you have.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aim for a higher purpose, live every day to its fullest, or work towards becoming your best self. In contrast, being pragmatic about where you’re standing and grateful for being alive. No matter the place or the conditions you were brought in. That is a form of contentedness, and it’s also a way of living in concordance with the laws of nature. 

Therefore, living virtuously implies being close to the natural order of things and nature itself. To become more grounded and develop a stronger sense of identity, we must return to our purest form and origins. Which means spending more time contemplating the beauty of nature. Acknowledging everything that surrounds us, the way our life is built, and simply being at peace with everything that comes our way.

Lesson 2: Practice makes perfect, so it pays off to work on your virtues.

In the Stoic philosophy, men have four core virtues in life: wisdom, morality, courage, and moderation. And since no one is perfect, mastering all of them takes a lifetime of work, and even so, we’ll always be far from perfection. Still, finding a balance between these four cardinals is essential for a happy, equilibrated life. So how does one learn how to find this balance and master their virtues? Through practice.

Just like with everything else in life, results come from action. Practice is the process of repeated action. Therefore, by guiding yourself after these principles and implementing them into your everyday life, you’ll be one step closer to living a meaningful one. These four virtues can be implemented in minor practices, and mastering them will end in happiness with consistency.

In the Stoic philosophy, happiness is the satisfaction one gets from virtuous living. And to live with virtue is to find a balance between your four cardinals, no matter the emotional rollercoaster you’ll go through. Anger, trauma, and other negative feelings are the challenges life throws at us. Stoics suggest observing them from an objective perspective and detaching yourself completely when such situations occur. See how you can use your virtues to combat them, and you’ll succeed at living a happy life.

Lesson 3: Control your emotions and don’t dwell on the things you can’t control.

One of the most prominent principles of Stoicism is that one should not worry about the things one can’t control. There will be times when negative situations will occur. Although they will alter the course of our life, as long as we can’t change them, we should avoid worrying and reacting to them. It’s easier said than done, this approach to life can end a lot of suffering and bring us peace. Marcus Aurelius himself spent a lifetime mastering this mindset, and as far as history recognizes, he succeeded at doing so.

One of the things that made him such a remarkable ruler was his approach to life and death. The Roman emperor acknowledged that no one can cheat death. And that the end of every human life is something inevitable. Instead of trying to become immortal, he preferred living a simple yet meaningful life. He didn’t dwell on the thought of death but rather acknowledged it. Which helped him make the most out of his days. 

There is nothing we can change about certain life situations, such as death, but we can change how we react to them. We can dictate our reactions and take charge of the manageable part of a situation, such as our emotions. Practicing cognitive dissonance – which implies taking a step back and analyzing your feelings and reactions from a third person’s perspective. We can control how we feel better. Essentially, this is what we should do because it’s in our power. Whereas undoing a situation isn’t, so why dwell on it?

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor Review

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor is a remarkable piece of writing that explores the life of Marcus Aurelius, the Roman leader who managed to live a virtuous life by adhering to the Stoic philosophy. The book can teach you the secrets behind living meaningfully, learning to control your emotions, and strengthening your mind. Reading this book will make you change your perspective on life and rethink your principles and your moral compass. It’ll help you become more pragmatic and calculated when it comes to emotions, pleasures and discomforts, and many other elements of life.

Who would I recommend our How to Think Like a Roman Emperor summary to?

The 45-year-old manager who is interested in Stoic philosophy and wants to study more about this topic, the 22-year-old student who has a passion for history and the life of Roman emperors or the Italian culture in general, and the 68-year-old retiree who is wondering what to do with the time they have remaining on this earth.

Last Updated on February 20, 2023

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Maria Deac

While working with my friend Ovi's company SocialBee, I had the good fortune of Maria writing over 200 summaries for us over the course of 18 months. Maria is a professional SEO copywriter, content writer, and social media marketing specialist. When she's not writing or learning more about marketing, she loves to dance and travel all over the world.