Books Marcus Aurelius Stoicism

Announcing “Marcus Aurelius: The Stoic Emperor”

Get my new philosophical biography of the Roman Emperor from Yale University Press

It’s finally here! I can now announce my latest book, a philosophical biography called Marcus Aurelius: The Stoic Emperor, part of the Yale University Press Ancient Lives series. When the series editor, James Romm, contacted me I was very pleased because although there are already several excellent biographies of Marcus Aurelius, I always felt there was something missing. I wanted to write a biography that said more about Stoic philosophy and how it influenced Marcus’ life as a young man, and later his actions as emperor. I hope I achieved that, while also giving the reader a few ideas they can take away and benefit from in their own lives.

The book is now available for pre-order in hardback, due out 7th Feb 2024. Ebook and audiobook edition will be forthcoming (narrated by me). You can get a copy now from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other retailers via the publisher’s website. NB: This title is eligible for Amazon’s pre-order price guarantee, which means that if you order your copy now, not only will you be helping the author (!) but you will also be more likely to benefit from certain discounts off the price. (See Amazon’s website for terms and conditions.)

Experience the world of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius and the tremendous challenges he faced and overcame with the help of Stoic philosophy.

Yales’ Ancient Lives series consists of titles by leading academics who unfold the stories of thinkers, writers, kings, queens, conquerors, and politicians from all parts of the ancient world. The aim is for readers to come to know these figures in fully human dimensions, complete with foibles and flaws, and to see that the issues they faced—political conflicts, constraints based in gender or race, tensions between the private and public self—have changed very little over the course of millennia.

Experts Praise the Book

  • “Few historical figures are as fascinating as Marcus Aurelius, the emperor-philosopher. And few writers have been so effective at bringing his complex life and character to the attention of modern readers as Donald Robertson.”—Massimo Pigliucci, author of How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life
  • “Robertson has written a very thorough and very readable account of Marcus’s life and the events and people that shaped him. Anyone who wants to understand the author of Meditations should read this book.”—Robin Waterfield, author of Marcus Aurelius, Meditations: The Annotated Edition
  • “Donald Robertson guides us into the world of a philosopher-emperor whose humility and Stoic teachings fill the pages. We are indebted to Robertson for this wonderful account of the emperor who penned notes to himself while in battle that would be later known as the Meditations and read by millions for philosophical inspiration. Simply spellbinding.”—Nancy Sherman, author of Stoic Wisdom: Ancient Lessons for Modern Resilience
  • “This highly readable biography is the perfect place to begin for anyone who wants to learn more about the man behind the Meditations.”—John Sellars, author of Marcus Aurelius (Philosophy in the Roman World)
  • “Robertson’s biography provides a compelling narrative of Marcus’ life, carefully based on the primary sources. He brings out very clearly the life-long significance of Stoicism for Marcus and the interplay between philosophy, politics, and warfare.”—Christopher Gill, author of Marcus Aurelius: Meditations, Books 1-6


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This novel biography brings Marcus Aurelius (121–180 CE) to life for a new generation of readers by exploring the emperor’s fascinating psychological journey. Donald J. Robertson examines Marcus’s relationships with key figures in his life, such as his mother, Domitia Lucilla, and the emperor Hadrian, as well as his Stoic tutors. He draws extensively on Marcus’s own Meditations and correspondence, and he examines the emperor’s actions as detailed in the Augustan History and other ancient texts.

Marcus Aurelius struggled to reconcile his philosophy and moral values with the political pressures he faced as emperor at the height of Roman power. Robertson examines Marcus’s attitude toward slavery and the moral dilemma posed by capturing enemies in warfare; his attitude toward women; the role of Stoicism in shaping his response to the threat of civil war; the treatment of Christians under his rule; and the naming of his notorious son Commodus as his successor.

Throughout, the Meditations is used to shed light on the mind of the emperor—his character, values, and motives—as Robertson skillfully weaves together Marcus’s inner journey as a philosopher with the outer events of his life as a Roman emperor.

Table of Contents

  • Prologue: Truth in the Meditations
  • Chapter One. The Mother of Caesar
  • Chapter Two. Verissimus the Philosopher
  • Chapter Three. The Greek Training
  • Chapter Four. Hadrian’s Vendettas
  • Chapter Five. The Death of Hadrian
  • Chapter Six. Disciple of Antoninus
  • Chapter Seven. Disciple of Rusticus
  • Chapter Eight. The Two Emperors
  • Chapter Nine. The Parthian Invasion
  • Chapter Ten. The War of Lucius Verus
  • Chapter Eleven. Parthicus Maximus
  • Chapter Twelve. The Antonine Plague
  • Chapter Thirteen. The War of Many Nations
  • Chapter Fourteen. Germanicus
  • Chapter Fifteen. Sarmaticus
  • Chapter Sixteen. Cassius the Usurper
  • Chapter Seventeen. The Civil War
  • Chapter Eighteen. The Setting Sun
  • Epilogue: The Hall of Mysteries

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