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

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4.39  ·  Rating details ·  2,430 ratings  ·  272 reviews
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
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Hardcover, 304 pages
Published April 2nd 2019 by St. Martin's Press
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  • How to Think Like a Roman Emperor by Donald J. Robertson
    How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius
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    Joanne Annabannabobanna Having studied Stoicism under Robertson recently, I can say by no means is it necessary to read the Meditations; through Robertson’s thorough and comp…moreHaving studied Stoicism under Robertson recently, I can say by no means is it necessary to read the Meditations; through Robertson’s thorough and comprehensive understanding you will attain a wonderful appreciation of Aurelius’ writings. From the Wall Street Journal: Robertson distills the emperor’s philosophy into useful mental habits... a sound knowledge of Marcus' life and thought... accessible prose style contributes to its appeal... a convincing case for the continuing relevance of an archetypal philosopher-king." Go for it! (less)

    Community Reviews

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    Average rating 4.39  · 
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    Start your review of How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius
    Ryan Boissonneault
    May 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    Shelves: favorites
    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
    ...more
    Susan
    Jan 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: read2019, non-fiction
    I was lucky to get a free copy via NetGalley for my true and honest opinion.

    Donald Robertson, a cognitive-behavioural psychotherapist looks at how the writing in the mediations and how it can be seen as pre-modern version of psychological strategy.

    Specifically, he looks at how stoic philosophy provided Marcus Aurelius as a coping strategy for his role as the emperor. Marcus Aurelius is one of the few good heroic Roman emperors, especially in comparison with Caligula or Nero. The author looks at
    ...more
    Lou
    Apr 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
    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 ...more
    John S.
    Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    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
    ...more
    Julie
    May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    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 ...more
    Jonathan Donihue
    Take an exposition of Stoic philosophy, add some psychotherapeutic practices, some mindfulness meditation techniques, and bundle it all up with a biography of one of the greatest emperors ever to oversee Rome and this is the book you'll get.

    How to Think Like a Roman Emperor is a very well written compilation of philosophy, spiritual practice, and biography. I listened to this one as a library audiobook. The narration was good but there is so much richness and depth here that I decided I'm going
    ...more
    Midori
    May 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
    Shelves: philosophy, 2020
    This book is a page-turner! However, the knowledge and practical advice behind it is so profound that it should be reread over and over again. After reading this book, I realize one thing that, all the wise men/women share the same wisdom. The truth always prevails and there is only one truth. Human beings are naturally irrational in so many ways and we are born that way (read Thinking, Fast, and Slow to know why), by learning to reason well about life and live rationally, we can achieve the vir ...more
    Andrew
    Mar 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
    Amazing
    Steve Eubank
    Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    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 Mar ...more
    Yousef
    Aug 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    Shelves: philosophy
    The last chapter was one of the most moving chapters I've read in a while. Marcus Aurelius. What a man.
    Benjamin *or so they say*
    I think I know what I want for Christmas...
    Noah Goats
    Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
    I've noticed that over the past few years books about Stoicism have really been proliferating. As traditional religion seems to ebb, I think people are looking for guidance to morality and the good life, and a surprising number of them are finding it in an ancient philosophy that was highly popular in classical Rome. The Stoics give modern people a moral code that doesn't look too different from the one they grew up with, but it bases its ethics on reason rather than revelation and dogma.

    The onl
    ...more
    GONZA
    Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
    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
    ...more
    Heather
    Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
    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.
    Enso
    May 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    "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
    ...more
    Jeremy Raby
    Oct 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    Donald Robertson knocked it out of the park with this book. All at once it’s a primer on Stoicism, a case study for how Stoicism can be beneficial to a real person, and a self-help book using modern psychotherapy techniques.

    Drawing from multiple Roman histories, and writings from Marcus Aurelius himself, Robertson has written a brief biography of the last “good” Roman emperor while interweaving lessons on Stoicism and modern cognitive behavioral therapy anyone can put into practice, just as Mar
    ...more
    Katie
    Jan 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
    I was going to give this book 3 stars because I mostly enjoyed it, but some of the CBT-ish parts were boring to read (probably because I'm a therapist and none of the things mentioned are really new to me).....HOWEVER...the last chapter alone ("Death and the View From Above") absolutely blew me away...very poetic, deep, profound, and the most stunningly beautiful philosophy I've ever read. I'm not ashamed to say reading it brought tears to my eyes. My guess is the chapter was an excerpt from Mar ...more
    James
    Feb 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
    A very well written, instructive introduction to Stoic philosophy told through the life of Marcus Aurelius.

    I'd previously read the Meditations, and am working through Seneca's letters but this book explains the roots of stoicism, it's founders and precepts. The book is organised into sections which focus on how someone can use stoic practices and perspectives to approach particular challenges. The author also draws interesting parallels between modern Cognitive Behaviour Therapy techniques and
    ...more
    Malum
    Jun 23, 2020 rated it it was ok
    This book couldn't decide if it wanted to be a history book, a self-help book, or a psychology primer, and so failed at all three. Also, the Stoicism advice just boiled down to "if you find yourself getting upset at something, stop it".
    Franzen Vive
    Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    Very relevant in a world where a lot of people tend to use their emotions more than their reason. The work also proves that philosophy is needed more than ever.
    Justin
    Mar 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
    One of the best books I have read.
    Garret
    Feb 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
    An excellent primer on both Stoicism and Marcus Aurelius.
    Hugo Ahlberg
    Apr 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
    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
    ...more
    Zach
    May 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
    I listened to the audiobook and was often left wondering if Robertson was quoting Stoic thinkers or writing with a sort of license from their perspective(s). Either way, compelling stuff.
    Rosemary Ward
    Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    Recommended to Rosemary by: 62
    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
    ...more
    Bella Briška
    Apr 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
    It was a good choice to combine the story of Marcus Aurelius’s life with practical advice on how to live like a Stoic. The biography part enrichened the book and made it an entertaining read. Altogether it was a well written book which offered something both for one’s intellect and practical life skills.
    Nishit Chauhan
    Jun 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    This book was my introduction to the Stoic philosophy and I must say that I couldn't have asked for anything better.

    After starting Meditations multiple times and putting it down, never finishing by getting discouraged by the writing style, How to Think takes all the principles from Meditations and puts them in an easy to comprehend manner.

    The author gets into the origins of the philosophy and also how it has evolved over centuries makes the book very easy to read, interesting and relatable. This
    ...more
    Michael Beaudoin
    I have been practicing Stoicism for about 4 years. I attended the 2017 Toronto Stoicon. It was great to meet some of the people I have been learning from, through various forms of media. I feel that I have learned a lot about Stoicism. I also feel that I can still learn more. When I received my copy of "How to Think Like a Roman Emperor", I immediately began to read it. It's a great book. What I like most about the book is that Donald Robertson's style of story telling makes you feel as if you a ...more
    Stefan Andrei
    May 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    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.

    Late
    ...more
    Miklos
    Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    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.
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    Author of How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius. I'm a philosopher and psychotherapist with a special interest in Stoicism and CBT.

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    24 likes · 6 comments
    “From the moment we’re born we’re constantly dying, not only with each stage of life but also one day at a time. Our bodies are no longer the ones to which our mothers gave birth, as Marcus put it. Nobody is the same person he was yesterday. Realizing this makes it easier to let go: we can no more hold on to life than grasp the waters of a rushing stream.” 8 likes
    “The Stoic Sage, or wise man, needs nothing but uses everything well; the fool believes himself to “need” countless things, but he uses them all badly.” 6 likes
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