How to Think Like a Roman Emperor – Donald Robertson Book Summary

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor – Donald Robertson | Free Book Summary

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor – Donald Robertson

The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius

Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius

  • He was the last famous Stoic of the ancient world
  • He was known for his physical frailty, due to chronic health problems, but also for his exceptional resilience
  • He repeatedly told himself that the goal of his life is not pleasure but action
  • As a young emperor, Marcus was ridiculed as a snob and a bore because at gladiator games they could see that he was reading legal documents and discussing them with his advisors.

How to Speak Wisely

The Stoics were concerned that their speech should not only be honest and simple but also appropriate to the needs of the hearer.

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Correcting someone else’s vices requires considerable tact; it is like pointing out that they have bad breath.

Stoics wanted to describe events in plain and simple terms.

This requires two main things: Conciseness and objectivity.

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How to Live by Your Values

The Stoics divided the day into three stages: The Stoic morning meditation, Mindfulness throughout the day, and Stoic evening reflection

By deeply reflecting on our values each day and attempting to describe them concisely, we can develop a clearer sense of direction.

How to Prepare for Death


  • Nothing lasts forever
  • Fear of death does us more harm than death itself because it turns us into cowards
  • Death merely returns us to Nature
  • To a man of wisdom, death should be among the least feared thing in life.

How to Conquer Desire

When doing what feels pleasurable becomes more important than doing what’s actually good for us or our loved ones, that’s a recipe for disaster.

Evaluate your habits and desires in terms of the bigger picture: how much do these pursuits actually contribute to your long-term happiness or sense of fulfillment in life?

Pain and Fear

How to Tolerate Pain

Pain is just a sensation, in other words; what matters is how we choose to respond to it.

Tell yourself that the pain won’t last long if it’s severe or that you’re capable of enduring much worse if the pain is chronic.

How to Relinquish Fear

Premeditation of adversity can be useful in confronting anger and other negative emotions, but its techniques are particularly suited to treat fear and anxiety.

Fear is essentially a future-focused emotion, so it’s natural that we should counter it by addressing our thoughts concerning the future.

How to Conquer Anger

For Marcus, the main antidote to anger is the Stoic virtue of kindness.

If someone hates you, that’s their problem. Your only concern is to avoid doing anything to deserve to be hated.

Nothing lasts forever. If events will seem trivial in the future when we look back on them, then why should we care strongly about them now?

How to Accept One’s Fate

The Stoics wanted to develop a healthy sense of gratitude in life, unspoiled by attachment.

They practiced calmly imagining change and loss, like a river gently flowing past, carrying things away.

Don’t fight what happens; try to accept and even embrace it.

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