In these same pages, Alaska – much more reader than some believe – chose, for the present moment, the Meditations of Marco Aurelio, the Roman emperor: an excellent recommendation.
In the cinema, Alec Guinness embodied it in The Fall of the Roman Empire; Richard Harris, in Gladiator; Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) quoted him in The Silence of the Lambs. Tourists remember his equestrian statue, at the Campidoglio in Rome.
He was the last of the “five good emperors.” He followed the final slogan of his teacher Antonino: “equanimity.” He fought against the Germans in the Danube area and, at the same time, wrote his treatise on Stoic philosophy: he compares the man who does not accept his destiny with a screaming piglet; the wise, with a rock that resists waves. His ideal model: the river stone that remains, however much it is beaten by the waves.
He advises us to live as if we were going to be a thousand years old; accept death and also life; live a good life, whether or not there are righteous gods; not to waste time, turning to see what a neighbor does, says or thinks; reduce our needs; understand the privilege of living: breathe, think, enjoy, love. Refuge ourselves in the interior life: “Nowhere can man find such a peaceful retreat as in the intimacy of his soul.” (In the face of Nazism, many sang “Thoughts are free”).
Stuart Mill compared his book to the Sermon on the Mount. For Taine, it was “the noblest soul that ever lived.” He agreed with Christianity in many things, not in all: “he had faith and charity, but no hope” (Wilamowitz). Playing with his surname (“cognomen”), Varo, his predecessor, called him “Verissimus”. His conduct harmonized perfectly with his philosophy. Would not succeed in current Spanish politics
: one more reason to read Marco Aurelio. .