Marcus Aurelius

I recently watched “Gladiator” for the first time, some 13 years after it was released! I found it brilliant, as is everything I’ve seen by Ridley Scott – what a genius. And on the extras for this DVD there are lots of scenes of Ridley actually directing as well as commenting on the film: absolutely spell-binding.

For me this film was a sublime combination of the epic and the personal, and brilliantly, movingly acted. Not the least of the fine perfornances was that of Richard Harris as Marcus Aurelius. And the film inspired me to find out a bit more about the character he played, and specifically to look up some Aurelian quotes, a few of which appear below.

There are plenty of soundbites flying around the ether, but I find these remarkable for being  said by a real-life Roman Emperor (Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus; 26 April 121 AD – 17 March 180 AD – Emperor from 161 to 180.) Where is the leader today capable of such sublime thoughts!

Not only that; many are beautiful. He focuses on the inner person, the soul, the harmony of the universe – and on the transience of our existence. How wonderfully he captured the essence of the Human Spirit.

With Russell Crowe as
General Maximus Decimus Meridius


Richard Harris as Marcus Aurelius
  • “A person’s worth is measured by the worth of what he values.”

  • "A wrongdoer is often a man who has left something undone, not always one who has done something.”

  • “Do not forever discuss what a good person should be. Just be one.”

  • "Everything – a horse, a vine – is created for some duty… For what task, then, were you yourself created?”

  • "Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”

  • "Here is a rule to remember in future, when anything tempts you to feel bitter: not “This is misfortune,” but “To bear this worthily is good fortune.”

  • "How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.”

  • “Humans have come into being for the sake of each other, so either teach them, or learn to bear them.”

  • "If any man despises me, that is his problem. My only concern is not doing or saying anything deserving of contempt.”

  • "If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it.”

  • "If someone can prove me wrong and show me my mistake in any thought or action, I shall gladly change. I seek the truth, which never harmed anyone: the harm is to persist in one’s own self-deception and ignorance.”

  • "It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.”

  • "It is not the actions of others which trouble us (for those actions are controlled by their governing part), but rather it is our own judgments. Therefore remove those judgments and resolve to let go of your anger, and it will already be gone. How do you let go? By realizing that such actions are not shameful to you.”

  • "Live out your life in truth and justice, tolerant of those who are neither true nor just.”

  • "Never esteem anything as of advantage to you that will make you break your word or lose your self-respect.”

  • "Never let the future disturb you – you will meet it with the same weapons of reason and mind that, today, guard you against the present.”

  • "Receive without conceit, release without struggle.”

  • "Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.”

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

  • "How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.”

  • "The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.”

  • "Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself in your way of thinking.”

  • "Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”

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

  • "How many together with whom I came into the world are already gone out of it.”

  • "Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul.”

  • "We must make haste then, not only because we are daily nearer to death, but also because the conception of things and the understanding of them cease first.”

  • "Do not act as if you were going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over you. While you live, while it is in your power, be good.”

  • "Accept the things to which Fate binds you and love the people with whom Fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.”
… and finally:

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not
care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues
you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want
to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”