What language did Marcus Aurelius speak

Summary of Self-contemplations

The stoa

The Stoa was a philosophical movement that was very influential in late antiquity. The from Zeno of Kition around 300 BC The school founded in the 3rd century BC went through three epochs: the early, the middle and the late Stoa. It was named after the place where Zeno taught, namely the Stoa poikile (Greek: "painted vestibule") in ancient Athens. Stoic philosophy includes the three disciplines of logic, physics and ethics. In logic, the Stoics distinguish between real things and their names. The meaning of things is not physical, but a product of mental activity. In stoic physics a cycle is taught, the primordial element of which is fire. The other elements air, water and earth develop from the fire. The Stoics also see the primordial fire as a soul and as a force that moves everything reasonably: According to a fixed order, fate, all life comes from the primordial fire and returns there again. In stoic ethics, personal knowledge and virtue are crucial to happiness. This ethic is a social one, since the human being is seen as a being destined for community. At the time of Emperor Marc Aurel, i.e. in the second century AD, the Stoa had become a kind of popular philosophy. Besides Marc Aurel himself, their most important representatives were the philosophers Seneca and Epictetus. The Stoa consciously set itself apart from the competitive philosophy of Epicureanism (named after the philosopher Epicurus) by extolling the principle of virtue and dispassion, and condemning the principle of pleasure.


In 161 AD, Marc Aurel, a philosopher, ascended the Roman imperial throne. But the vast empire had already passed its zenith. In the society of Rome the decadence was palpable, the moral and spiritual life deteriorated. At the same time - after a long period of peace - all corners of the empire were on fire: In Britain and Germania, the Caledonians and Chatti attacked in 162, while in Syria an uprising was in progress at the same time. In the years that followed, wars followed on the Danube border, in northern Italy and in Greece. In 171 fighting flared up in Raetia and Noricum: there the Marcomanni and Quadi invaded the Roman Empire. The emperor personally took care of the restoration of peace on the borders. Marc Aurel spent many years on campaigns against the barbarians (this is how the Romans called all peoples outside the Greco-Roman cultural area); he had little time left for philosophy. Nevertheless, during these warlike years, his Self-contemplations. The books are personal notes of the emperor, a kind of diary in which the philosopher emperor and general wrote down principles and thoughts while he led the struggle against the impending decline of the empire. Mostly written under unfavorable circumstances in the camp, the Self-contemplations Marcus Aurelius' very personal journal, in which he devoted himself to philosophy for years and in the midst of military obligations.

Impact history

Marc Aurel has it Self-contemplations probably not written with the idea of ​​a publication in mind. The Greek title Ton eis heauton biblia can also be translated as "notes on yourself". Who edited and published the texts after the death of Marcus Aurelius in 180 AD is unknown. The division of the records into twelve books certainly did not come from the author, but from the editor. The first known mention of the books can be found in the Rhetor (teacher of oratory) Themistios around 350 AD Then the trace of the writing disappears for more than 500 years. In the Middle Ages, various manuscripts of the work were occasionally mentioned. The current version is essentially based on two different copies from the 14th and 16th centuries. The book was first translated into Latin and commented on. The first English translation appeared as early as the 16th century, and they have been since the 17th century Self-contemplations has been translated into almost all modern languages. Under the influence of the Enlightenment, the book quickly spread across Europe and was very popular. Marc Aurel's personality and the Self-contemplations In particular, they had a great influence on the cultural history of Europe. Marc Aurel was deeply impressed. B. the German king Frederick the Greatwho was modeled on the heroic fulfillment of duty of the stoic emperor in the darkest days of his life.

In modern editions, the book is also touted as reading for help in life, e.g. Sometimes under different titles (e.g. The way to yourself). The Russian writer Anton Chekhov has the Self-contemplations much appreciated and commented (published under the title How should one live?). Boy Friedrich Nietzsche recommended the book to a friend as a tonic: "It's so calm." For centuries, the Self-contemplations I love to read it again and again and to this day they are a popular guide in search of inner peace.