The Stoic Emperor: Marcus Aurelius’ Greatest Accomplishments

Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD) was a Roman Emperor who ruled from 161 to 180 AD. He is widely known for his philosophical teachings and leadership during difficult times. This blog post covers two of his greatest accomplishments:

  • Leadership of Rome during the Antonine Plague
  • Philosophical writings known as the “Meditations”

The Antonine Plague

During Marcus Aurelius’ reign, there were several pandemics that affected the Roman Empire, including the Antonine Plague, which began in 165 AD and lasted for several years.

This plague was characterized by symptoms such as fever, chills, coughing, and skin rashes. It is believed to have been caused by either smallpox or measles, although the exact pathogen is not known for certain.

The pandemic had a significant impact on the Roman Empire, causing widespread illness and death, and disrupting social and economic life. The Roman army was particularly hard hit, with many soldiers dying from the disease, and the military campaigns against the Parthians and Germans were severely impacted.

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, one of Marcus Aurelius’ greatest accomplishments was the recovery and eventual prosperity of the Roman Empire after this challenging period of history.

He took several measures to address the pandemic, including providing medical care to those who were affected and ordering the bodies of the deceased to be properly disposed of. He also encouraged people to follow preventative measures, such as avoiding large crowds and practicing good hygiene.

Philosophical writings

While it is not known for certain whether Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations” book was specifically useful during the Antonine Plague, the teachings contained within it may have provided comfort and guidance to those who were struggling with the physical and emotional toll of the pandemic.

The “Meditations” is a collection of personal reflections and philosophical teachings, written by Marcus Aurelius as a form of self-improvement and introspection. The book contains many passages that deal with the nature of suffering, the impermanence of life, and the importance of cultivating inner strength and resilience in the face of adversity.

During times of crisis, such as a pandemic, people may turn to philosophy or religion for comfort and guidance. The teachings of the “Meditations” may have provided a framework for individuals to cope with the uncertainty and suffering caused by the Antonine Plague, by emphasizing the importance of focusing on what can be controlled and accepting what cannot be.

Overall, the “Meditations” remains a valuable resource for those seeking to cultivate wisdom, resilience, and inner peace, regardless of the specific circumstances they may be facing.

Marcus Aurelius’ Quotes from Meditations

You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.

When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love …

The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury.

If someone is able to show me that what I think or do is not right, I will happily change, for I seek the truth, by which no one was ever truly harmed. It is the person who continues in his self-deception and ignorance who is harmed.


In conclusion, Marcus Aurelius was a remarkable Roman Emperor who left a lasting legacy through his philosophical teachings and leadership during difficult times. His “Meditations” remain an influential work of philosophy, providing guidance and comfort to people facing adversity even today. During the Antonine Plague, Marcus Aurelius took measures to address the pandemic, demonstrating his compassion for his people and his ability to lead during challenging times. His quotes from “Meditations” continue to inspire individuals seeking wisdom, resilience, and inner peace. Marcus Aurelius remains a shining example of leadership and philosophy that can provide guidance for generations to come.

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