We’re delighted to announce that our new graphic novel Verissimus: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius is currently among Amazon’s top-rated books in the Ancient Roman History category, with an average rating of 4.8 stars from nearly 100 reviewers.
On its release, Verissimus was chosen as an Amazon Editor’s Pick for Best History Book.
See our publisher, MacMillan’s website for more information and links to other booksellers. Verissimus is available in both hardback and ebook format from all good bookstores.
What the Stoics actually said about kingship, applied to leadership
How better or how otherwise could a man be a good ruler or live a good life than by studying philosophy? For my part, I believe that the good king is straightway and of necessity a philosopher, and the philosopher a kingly person. — Musonius Rufus
The ancient Stoics believed that it was essential for anyone who wants to be a leader to study philosophy. Indeed, the most famous Stoic of all was Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor, who saw Stoicism as essential training for his role. The Stoic teachers who came before him wrote entire books on leadership, under titles such as On Kingship or The Statesman. Most of these are lost, unfortunately, but in the 1st century AD, the famous Stoic teacher Musonius Rufus, gave a lecture titled That kings also should study philosophy, which survives today. Kingship is one type of leadership, but as we’ll see, if we adapt the words of Musonius’ lecture, most of what he says is still relevant, and it provides us, in summary form, with a Stoic manual for modern-day leadership.
I recently spoke with author Ryan Holiday about our mutual fascination with the life and philosophy of Marcus Aurelius, on the Daily Stoic podcast. You can also download the episode from Spotify or Apple Podcasts, among others. If you found our chat interesting, please share your comments or questions on Twitter, for me to read, and tag DonJRobertson.
What my research told me about the Stoic Roman Emperor
have spent a lot of time researching Marcus Aurelius. I first read his notes about applying Stoic philosophy to daily life, the Meditations, one of the most cherished philosophical and self-help classics of all time, over 25 years ago. Since then, I’ve written six books on Stoicism — three in a row have been about the life of Marcus Aurelius! The first was a self-help book, based on vignettes from his life, called How to Think Like a Roman Emperor, the most recent was a prose biography of him for Yale University Press, and between them came a graphic novel called Verissimus: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius, from which the illustrations in this article are borrowed. Here are some of the most interesting things I learned during my research…
1 Marcus led a dance troupe
As a young boy, Marcus was appointed to several important positions due to the influence of the Emperor Hadrian. One of them was the College of the Salii or leaping priests, a Roman religious order supposedly founded by the legendary King Numa, from whom Marcus’ family claimed descent. The Salii recited obscure chants and performed an athletic military dance, bearing archaic shields and spears, in honour of Mars, the god of war. These rituals were meant to train youths for the physical exertions of battle.
When Marcus refers to dancing in the Meditations, therefore, he’s drawing on a wealth of experience, which makes his comments much more personally meaningful. For example, being well-acquainted with both wrestling and dancing, he wrote:
The art of life is more like the wrestler’s art than the dancer’s, in respect of this, that it should stand ready and firm to meet onsets which are sudden and unexpected. — Meditations, 7.61
Marcus appears to have relished his training in dance, though, and eventually went on to become the leader of the Salii.
One of the most common questions I’m asked (honestly!) is what would make a good Stoic tattoo. If that surprises some people, it makes perfect sense to others, myself included — yes, I’m in the pro-tattoo camp! In this article, I’ll talk about the concept of Stoic tattoos, give some example phrases, and then talk about a Stoic tattoo I had done recently in Athens.
First off, Stoicism tattoos are definitely a thing. I’ve seen countless photos of people with Marcus Aurelius tattoos and the occasional quote from Seneca. There are Pinterest boards of Stoicism tattoo ideas, a blog article listing examples, and it’s a recurring question on the Stoicism Subreddit. We were paid the ultimate compliment recently when someone, out of the blue, sent us a photo of a tattoo based on artwork by Zé Nuno Fraga, the award-winning illustrator of our Stoicism graphic novel, Verissimus: the Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius.