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

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  4,775 ratings  ·  496 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
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published April 2nd 2019 by St. Martin's Press (first published April 2019)
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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)

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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
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
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
Sep 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Entering 2021 like a Roman Emperor.
Oct 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I had never read a “modern Stoic” book before this and considered them superfluous cash-ins to an already vastly oversaturated “Stoic self-help” genre. The original three big Roman Stoics, who I had read extensively (Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and Seneca), were all I or anyone should read or need at all. I was wrong about this book though and it now sits side by side my copy or Marcus’s Meditations, Epictetus’ Discourses, and Seneca’s Letters on my shelf, aka a very nice place to be.

As I mentio
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
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
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
Jun 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing

I think this book will be one of the handful that will stay with me. It accomplishes a lot: it is a useful companion to other books on Stoic philosophy because it contextualises Marcus Aurelius' life and his Stoic practice; it bridges cognitive behavioural therapy with Stoic principles; and it teaches the reader how they might incorporate these techniques in their own life. I took so many notes that I felt like I was almost transcribing it, and yet when I finished reading, I wanted to start over
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". ...more
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. ...more
Mar 14, 2020 rated it it was 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
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
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
May 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020, philosophy
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
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.
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
The Views of Heather U
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.
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
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
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
Manny Schwimmer
Jan 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Worth far more than the price of the book for how it packages life-changing wisdom from Marcus Aurelius, the last great Roman emperor and last famous Stoic philosopher of the ancient world. Before picking up this book, I had bought a copy of the diary of Marcus Aurelius that he is best known for - The Meditations - and found its ideas useful, but there were many nuances that went over my head. Then comes this gem by Donald Robertson. He tells the story of Marcus's life to give me the context I n ...more
Francis One
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.
May 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Wow. This book really hit the spot for me. It beautifully translates Marcus Aurelius' wisdom into modern world reality, binding stoicism with psychoterapy techniques known today. ...more
Ben Rogers
Nov 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Got a lot out of this one.

Came at a good time, and I really appreciated some of the lessons.

Enjoyed it way more than Lives of the Stoics.

Mar 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I have read.
Brad Dunn
Feb 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't recommend this book enough. There is so much to love about it. It covers how, as fate would have it, a lot of the roots of stoic philosophy correspond to modern cognitive behavioral psychology. I will gift this to many people. If you want a guide book for life - this is the one. ...more
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
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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. ...more

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12 likes · 2 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.” 20 likes
“According to Stoic philosophy, when we assign intrinsic values like “good” or “bad” to external events, we’re behaving irrationally and even exhibiting a form of self-deception. When we call something a “catastrophe,” for instance, we go beyond the bare facts and start distorting events and deceiving ourselves. Moreover, the Stoics consider lying a form of impiety—when a man lies, he alienates himself from Nature.” 9 likes
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