We are delighted to be able to bring you this downloadable PDF of a full-color, 16” x 20” Marcus Aurelius poster designed by Zé Nuno Fraga, courtesy of St. Martin’s Press. Zé is the award-winning Portuguese illustrator, responsible for the artwork in our graphic novel, Verissimus: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius.
In this episode, I speak about Stoicism and Buddhism with Matthew Gindin. Matthew is a former Forest Monk in the Thai Buddhist tradition. He taught meditation practices for 15 years, and has written extensively for Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. He is now the author of the newsletter on Substack.Stoicism: Philosophy as a Way of Life is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.Highlights* How Matthew became interested in Stoicism and his other philosophical influences, such as Spinoza* The rise in popularity of Stoicism, e.g., how it appeals to people interested in Buddhism, etc.* What do you think Stoicism and Buddhism have in common?* The historical relationship between Stoicism and Buddhism, e.g., communication between ancient eastern and western philosophers* How Stoics could benefit from learning more about Buddhism Links* Substack NewsletterThank you for reading Stoicism: Philosophy as a Way of Life. This post is public so feel free to share it. Get full access to Stoicism: Philosophy as a Way of Life at donaldrobertson.substack.com/subscribe
The latest podcast episode of my podcast, brand new today, is a conversation with Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, author of How to be a Stoic and The Quest for Character. I’ve known Massimo for years and wanted to talk to him about how he first became interested in Stoicism, whether his views had changed, his interest in Skepticism and anti-pseudoscience, as well as what his new book says about Socrates, Alcibiades, good leadership, and the development of character.
In this episode, I chat with Massimo Pigliucci, Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York, part of the team responsible for the Modern Stoicism organization, and author of several books on philosophy, including How to be a Stoic and, more recently, The Quest for Character: What the Story of Socrates and Alcibiades Teaches us about Our Search for Good Leaders. Stoicism: Philosophy as a Way of Life is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.Topics covered include…* How Massimo first got into philosophy, and into Stoicism * What he learned from writing How to be a Stoic* How he has changed his mind about aspects of Stoicism* The Modern Stoicism org and the modern resurgence of interest in Stoicism? * Why doesn’t there seem to be as much interest in Epicureanism or other ancient schools of philosophy among the general public? * What's The Quest for Character about? * Why write about Socrates and Alcibiades? * What potential do you think Socrates saw in Alcibiades? * What do you think Alcibiades’ biggest flaws were and what was his biggest mistake in life? * Would it have turned out differently if a Stoic like Epictetus had been Alcibiades’ tutor? * To what extent good character, or virtue, can be taught* How we could be doing a better job of teaching virtue today Thank you for reading Stoicism: Philosophy as a Way of Life. This post is public so feel free to share it. Get full access to Stoicism: Philosophy as a Way of Life at donaldrobertson.substack.com/subscribe
In this episode, I chat with Tim LeBon, cognitive-behavioural psychotherapist, research director for the Modern Stoicism organization, and author of Wise Therapy: Philosophy for Counsellors, Teach Yourself Positive Psychology, and more recently, 365 Ways to be More Stoic, edited by my wife Kasey Pierce.
Topics covered include…
How Tim first got into philosophical practice and Stoicism
The relationship between Stoicism and CBT in general
Stoicism and third-wave CBT — recent advances
What Tim has learned about Stoicism from his experience as research director with Modern Stoicism
What’s 365 Ways like? How it differs from other Stoicism books
In this episode, I chat with Tim LeBon, cognitive-behavioural psychotherapist, research director for the Modern Stoicism organization, and author of Wise Therapy: Philosophy for Counsellors, Teach Yourself Positive Psychology, and more recently, 365 Ways to be More Stoic, edited by my wife . Topics covered include…* How Tim first got into philosophical practice and Stoicism * The relationship between Stoicism and CBT in general * Stoicism and third-wave CBT — recent advances* What Tim has learned about Stoicism from his experience as research director with Modern Stoicism* What's 365 Ways like? How it differs from other Stoicism books Stoicism: Philosophy as a Way of Life is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.Tim’s new book, edited by my wife, Kasey Pierce, is now available from all good bookstores.Thank you for reading Stoicism: Philosophy as a Way of Life. This post is public so feel free to share it. Thank you for subscribing. Leave a comment or share this episode.
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This is possibly James Braid’s very earliest publication on hypnotism; his letter was dated March 7th 1842 and published in the March 12th edition of The Medical Times. In it he does not use the term “hypnotism”, though elsewhere he suggests it was already in use by him at his lectures. The anonymous report which precedes his letter mentions his use of the expression “neuro-hypnology”, albeit spelt incorrectly.
Indeed, this is one of Braid’s most interesting letters, providing a neat summary of his early theory and practice. It illustrates how, from the outset, Braid’s work was independently reported, and publicly examined and endorsed by a wide variety of observers, including some of the most distinguished scientists and physicians of his day. In his first booklet on the subject, published shortly after this letter, a frustrated Braid reminds his critics of the sincere and persistent efforts which he made in order to substantiate his views,
Had I not, moreover, stated the fact that impressed with the importance of the subject, I had, at great personal inconvenience as well as pecuniary sacrifice, gone to London, that my views might be subjected “to a rigid examination” of the most learned men in our profession, to propound to them the laws by which I consider it to act, and above all, to prove to them “the uniformity of its action” and its practical applicability and value as a curative agency, by [my] mode of operating.
Satanic Agency, etc., 1852
This journalist’s report and Braid’s subjoined letter, show the extent to which, with the limited means available to him, Braid attempted to develop his theory in a credible manner. In Neurypnology (1843), Braid comments on the role of Dr. Herbert Mayo, one of the most distinguished medical scientists of the period, at the meeting,
I am fully borne out by the opinion of that eminent physiologist, Mr. Herbert Mayo, in my view of the subject, that my plan is ‘the best, the shortest, and surest for getting the sleep,’ and throwing the nervous system, by artificial contrivance, into a new condition, which may be rendered available in the healing art. At a private conversazione, which I gave to the profession in London on the 1st of March, 1842, he examined and tested my patients most carefully, submitted himself to be operated on by me both publicly and privately, and was so searching and inquisitive in his investigations as to call forth the animadversions of a medical gentleman present, who thought he was not giving me fair play; but which he has assured me proceeded from an anxious desire to know the truth, not being biased by having any peculiar views of his own to bring forward; and because he considered the subject most important, both in a speculative and practical point of view.
In his Electro-Biological Phenomena (1851) Braid describes a successful public demonstration delivered by him in Manchester, adding,
I was equally successful in operating upon a number of strangers together at a private conversazione, given to the profession in London, in March 1842, sixteen out of eighteen having passed into the sleep, simply by maintaining a steady fixed stare and fixed act of attention, whilst gazing at root of a chandelier. Most of these had never been so tried before. I never touched any one of them until their eyelids closed. Mr Herbert Mayo, the eminent physiologist and surgeon, tested them, and ran a needle from the back to the palm of the hand of one patient without his (the patient) evincing the slightest consciousness of pain, or remembrance of it after awaking.
Dr. Mayo subsequently published his own favourable account entitled ‘On Mr. Braid’s experiments’, in the next volume of the Medical Times for 1852.
[Report by Anonymous Correspondent]
Mr. Braid delivered two very excellent lectures on this subject last week, one on Tuesday the 1st of March, at the Hanover Square Rooms, the other, the following day, at the London Tavern.
The lecturer commenced by giving his audience a detailed explanation of the theory and phenomena of animal magnetism, and entered fully into the subject, illustrating the paper by physiological facts, and several interesting anecdotes. He prefers the term “neuohypnology [sic., an obvious typographical mistake], or the rationale of nervous sleep,” to that of animal magnetism, and thinks that that term is more proper, inasmuch as the effect is produced through the medium of the nervous system. Several experiments performed after the lecture.
The first was a young woman, whom Mr. Braid directed to look at her own finger; in two minutes the face became flushed, the woman sighed, and the eyes closed. She was then requested to sit down, which she did; her arms were raised and also her legs; ammonia was placed under her nose, the galvanic battery applied, pins stuck in the forehead and legs, and without the woman evincing the slightest pain. The second experiment was upon two deaf brothers, one of them was magnetised by looking upwards, and in three minutes the effect was produced. Mr. Braid extended both arms, which remained so for some time; he then clapped his hands, and the boy instantly became de-mesmerised. The experimenter stated that the hearing was increased twelvefold during the time the patient was under the influence of the magnetising process. The elder brother was then subjected to the same process, and became magnetised in about three or four minutes; a percussion cap was fired at his ear when in this state, but no effect supervened. It is a singular thing that [presumably at a different stage in the lecture] the pulse in this boy increased from 84 to 140[bpm], and Mr. Braid remarked that such was generally the case. [Braid repeatedly makes this observation in his writings, which seems to be verified by the reporter. The induction of rigid catalepsy seems to roughly double the pulse, raising it to a level more typical during intense aerobic exercise.]
The third experiment was upon his own footman [perhaps the young “man-servant” discussed in Neurypnology]. In this case he bandaged the man’s eyes and in three minutes he was asleep; he was subjected to nearly the same experiments as the preceding. Mr. Braid then recovered him and directed the man to turn his eyes to the side; in a few minutes the eyes closed, and the most curious effect was produced; the man began gradually to turn round, a circumstance by no means uncommon with those who turn the eyes to the side (so the lecturer informed us). [This phenomenon might be compared to Braid’s later observations on “muscular suggestion.”]
The fourth experiment was upon a young lady, whom Mr. Duncan [who had previously conducted lectures introducing Braid’s work to the London audience prior to his arrival] had been in the habit of experimenting on. This was a very interesting case; after being magnetised, several objects were placed before her eyes (which were closed), and she distinctly names each article in succession [an illusory feat, later attributed by Braid to the ability to see through eyelids which are not properly closed]; she then walked about the platform, and knelt and arose at the request of the lecturer.
The last and concluding experiment was upon a young woman, who after going through nearly the same operations, finished by singing “off, off, says the stranger,” and it really seemed as if she were about to go off.
[Braid’s Letter to the Editor]
To the Editor of the Medical Times,
I feel obliged by the kind note you have sent me stating your intention of honouring me by a report of my lecture. I much regret you could not attend the conversazioni, but I shall furnish you with a brief account of what took place on that occasion. When I had briefly explained to those present my theoretical views, and the ground on which I had come to such conclusions, I expressed my intention to exhibit the phenomena on some of the subjects I had brought with me; some stranger proposed that it might be still more satisfactory and convincing to all present, were I to operate on a stranger, to which I readily assented, provided any one present was willing to become the subject of experiment. It was then announced that a person born deaf and dumb was present, and had come with the express desire to be operated on, and would now come forward if I chose to begin with him. I assented, and the patient came forward accordingly. He was totally deaf, was never known to have heard sound at any time in his life, and was 32 years of age. In about eight minutes, I evinced to all present the most incontestable proof of hearing being restored. I then operated on another stranger successfully, and on a third, who was one of my subjects; the varied phenomena intended, and expressed as meant to be exhibited by said patient, were all demonstrated, to the satisfaction of all present. The next operated on was Herbert Mayo, Esq., so well known to the profession; afterwards my other subjects were operated on, exhibiting these varied phenomena, both mental and corporeal. As the last experiment of the evening, eighteen were subject to their operation at once, and in ten minutes 16 of the number [89%] were all in a state of somnolency, and some in the cataleptiform state, with insensibility to pain, as tested both by myself and Mr. Mayo [who seems to have shoved a pin straight through his hand]. The other two did not comply with my injunctions. For the correctness of this statement, I beg to refer you to Dr. [Archibald] Billing [a physician and medical author] and Mr. Herbert Mayo, who tested the patients, and neither of whom I had had the honour of knowing till that evening. [In Hypnotic Therapeutics, 1853, Braid adds, that of this group, ‘twelve of whom had never been tried before’, the sixteen responsive subjects ‘went into the condition at same time, by gazing fixedly and abstractedly on the root of a chandelier.’] I should feel obliged by your recording the fact now stated, in addition to what your reporter might see or hear at the public lecture. In short, the whole of my experiments go to prove, that there is a law of the animal economy by which a continued fixation of the visual organ, and a constrained attention of the mind to one subject, which is not of itself of an exciting nature; a state of somnolency is induced, with a peculiar mobility of the whole system, which may be directed so as to exhibit the whole or greater part of the mesmeric phenomena.
The remarks of your talented correspondent, Mr. Barrallier, relative to Mr. Catlow’s experiments, are quite in accordance with my own views. I had made experiments to prove this, and had come to the same conclusion as Mr. Barrallier before I was aware of his experiments, and have confirmed them many times since on different subjects. Mr. C.’s cases on the sense of hearing, touch, taste, smelling, and muscular motion, were nothing beyond natural sleep, at any rate totally different from mesmeric sleep, unless in those cases where the patients had been repeatedly operated on in my way, or through the eye. After a certain time, and frequency of being operated on in this way, the brain has an impressibility stamped on it which renders the patient subject to be acted on entirely through the imagination, and this is the grand source of the follies which have misled Mr. C. and the animal magnetisers. I feel most confident of this, and shall feel obliged by your publishing this letter to record what I believe to be the fact.
On my return home, I delivered a lecture at Birmingham on Thursday evening, 3rdinst. [3rd March 1842], when I exhibited a series of experiments which were quite conclusive on the subject. I am to deliver another lecture in Manchester next Saturday evening, when I shall exhibit the same, and many more, illustrative of the imagined transposition of the senses [i.e., seeing with the stomach, and other supposed paranormal abilities called the “higher phenomena” of Mesmerism], and the magnetic power of attraction, a report of which shall be sent to some of our papers, which I shall correct if any mistakes should appear before I send it.
I beg leave further to state, that as I have operated successfully on the blind, it is evident it is not the optic nerve so much as the ganglionic or sympathetic systems and motor nerves of the eye, and state of the mind, which influence the system in this extraordinary manner.
I have the honour to be, Sir, your much obliged and obedient servant,
3, St. Peter’s Square, March 7th 1842
PS. I may add, that last night I was called to a lady suffering the most agonizing Tic Douloroux. In five minutes by my mode of inducing refreshing sleep, I succeeded in putting this patient into comfortable sleep, from which she did not awake till Sunday in the morning, being five and a half hours, and was then quite easy. By what other agency, I now ask, could such an effort have been induced.
Talking with Tanner Campbell on his Practical Stoicism Podcast
I recently had a pretty in-depth and original discussion about Stoicism, psychotherapy, and our graphic novel, with Tanner Campbell for his Practical Stoicism Podcast. You can listen via Apple, Spotify, or other podcast links available on Tanner’s website.
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What’s in the book and how to decide if it’s appropriate reading
Our graphic novel, Verissimus: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius, was written for adults but an increasing number of people have told me their children have been reading it. They told me that their kids saw the cover, were intrigued by the artwork, and “stole” their copy. Some teachers have also approached me, interested in purchasing copies for their classes. They think it would make a useful teaching aid.
With Christmas approaching, I’ve been asked about its suitability as a gift for young people. In this post, I’ll try to give a comprehensive answer, inspired by the review site Common Sense Media, which I think does a great job of helping adults decide for themselves what’s appropriate for their children. The short answer is that I would rate this book PG-13 but I’ll explain below the aspects of which parents and teachers should be aware, in order to decide for themselves.
He dies at the end. Actually, he dies at the beginning. We borrowed that idea from How to Think Like a Roman Emperor when writing the script for Verissimus, because it made it much easier to structure the story of Marcus Aurelius’ life by embedding it within a framing story about his death. So this is how the book begins…
Verissimus was a labor of love. Our 260-page full-color graphic novel about the life and philosophy of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, was published in July 2022. It took a small team of us about two and a half years to create — normally you’re given about one year to write a conventional prose book. The project began when I was contacted by an award-winning illustrator, from Portugal, called Zé Nuno Fraga, who had recently published the graphic novel Assemblywomen, the ancient Greek satire by Aristophanes. A couple of major publishing houses were interested and before long we had a book deal with St. Martin’s Press, an imprint of Macmillan.
I’d never worked on a graphic novel before so I immediately plunged into reading books on the art of writing scripts for them, and illustrating them. The best is Scott Macleod’s fantastic Making Comics, which I read cover to cover 2-3 times — it became my Bible. I also sought advice from comic book enthusiasts who read the script and reviewed the draft illustrations. Before long I’d added Kasey Pierce, a freelance comic editor, to our team — a couple of years later we got married!
Verissimus is one of three books in a row that I wrote about Marcus Aurelius, the others being a self-help book, How to Think Like a Roman Emperor, and the forthcoming Marcus Aurelius biography I wrote for Yale University Press’ Ancient Lives series, which is edited by James Romm. I also edited an edition of the Meditations for Capstone Classics and wrote the biographical introductory essay on Marcus Aurelius for that volume. For several years, I was completely immersed in Marcus’ life and philosophy.
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Some people have told me they’re surprised how much research went into Verissimus. So I thought it might be interesting to say more about how it was written. Here are some behind-the-scenes insights…
Near the end of the process, I realized that I’d “accidentally written the prequel to Gladiator but with a lot more philosophy” as I like to put it. Incidentally, my publisher told me that the scriptwriter for Gladiator 2 (now in the works) had read How to Think Like a Roman Emperor as part of his own research. Graphic novels take many different forms — at the bare minimum the artwork could have just been lots of stickmen with speech bubbles. We naturally went for a classic European historical epic look, with a sweeping cinematic feel, because it seemed to fit this story very nicely. It also makes it easy to imagine Verissimus being made — Fate permitting! — into an animation or live-action movie. (We’ve already had some initial interest in the movie rights.)
In my original pitch I said I wanted to avoid having 250 pages of “guys in togas and sandals talking about philosophy”. We wanted to create something that was much more action-oriented — like Gladiator or 300 but more historically authentic and with a lot more Stoicism! I scoured the Meditations for references to objects and events that might allow us to combine Marcus’ words with the action in plausible ways. For example, when Marcus talks in the Meditations about how to respond to treachery or deceit, it seems natural to imagine he would have said similar things about the various real-world betrayals he experienced. When he refers to events like gladiatorial contests, as a metaphor for philosophy, it’s easy to imagine him having made similar remarks while watching fighters at the Colosseum in Rome, and so on. In the few situations where long conversations took place that had no relation to Marcus’ action — borrowing a tip from Scott Macleod! — we placed Marcus in an unusual but plausible setting, such as the circus maximus or a Roman bathhouse, that allowed us to include action unfolding in parallel to, and sometimes complementing, his words.
I wanted people who knew nothing about Stoic philosophy to be able to read Verissimus and come away with a basic grasp both of its fundamentals and also of ways in which it could actually help them in the modern world — quite an ambitious goal! Early on I decided that in order to clearly communicate Stoic philosophy and also give people practical “takeaways”, I should focus on the problem of overcoming anger. Marcus explicitly states near the start of the Meditations that, for a time, he struggled to control his temper. The hero of a story like this typically has to go on a personal journey, otherwise he’ll seem boring and one-dimensional — we need to see Marcus changing over time, at least to some extent. We decided our Marcus should come across as a more complex human being. He is therefore shown struggling with his emotions at first and later, through Stoicism, mastering them — that’s a plausible reading of the historical evidence. My opinion, incidentally, is that anger is the best emotion for comics! It’s very interpersonal and expressive, and linked to action — it’s highly visual and dynamic by its very nature!
Early on in the project, we recruited an expert on Roman military reenactment who advised us throughout the process on details relating to weapons and armour, etc. During the initial draft phase, poor Zé had to go through and change many sketches after our consultant explained that Roman legionaries in this period began using the spatha, a longer sword than the conventional gladius, better suited to fighting “barbarian” horsemen. Many other details like uniforms, siege engines, and military formations, were checked for historical authenticity.
Some people — and this surprises me — believe that we don’t know much about the life of Marcus Aurelius. They’re wrong. We know far more about him than we do about any other Stoic, and perhaps even more than we know about any other ancient philosopher. Why? Because he was a famous emperor. The Meditations is not a normal text on philosophy but rather a series of personal reflections, almost autobiographical in nature. They tell us things about Marcus’ inner life, his character, preoccupations, and even some details about his outward life as emperor — particularly in the first chapter where he dwells at length on his relationships with his family and tutors, some of his closest friends. We also have three main historical accounts of his life, from Cassius Dio, the Historia Augusta and Herodian. We have an amazing cache of Marcus’ private letters, some alleged speeches by him, and many passing references to him in other ancient sources. The least well-known of our sources, incidentally, is the collection of references to his legislation in the Roman legal digests. We also have important inscriptions and numismatic and archeological evidence, etc. There are, moreover, many modern biographies of Marcus as well as several pieces of modern scholarship on his era and other famous figures who are part of his story, such as Hadrian and Lucius Verus. I’m surprised that biographers tend to have an insular approach, incidentally, focusing on the evidence relating to Marcus himself, whereas evidence about the lives of key people he associated with can also shed a great deal of light on the events of his life. For instance, the more we learn about the later years of Emperor Hadrian, the more we understand the early life of Marcus Aurelius — Marcus even lived in Hadrian’s villa for several months toward the end of the latter’s troubled life.
Verissimus is not really a work of fiction — it’s about as close as a graphic novel about the ancient world can get to being a historical biography. (Though the notorious unreliability of many ancient sources makes this claim problematic, of course.) The Roman histories provided our main source for Verissimus, supplemented by the other historical evidence mentioned above. We followed them very closely. Anyone reading the ancient sources alongside Verissimus will see that it’s a pretty faithful retelling of the story they provide although, of course, we have to create some dialogue, etc., for this medium. We were even able to do things that are tricky in a conventional prose biography, e.g., depicting gossip, dreams, memories, and stories within stories, which are also derived from our historical sources. For instance, where ancient sources label something as rumour or present it as unreliable information, we depict it as gossip between characters commenting on events, allowing the reader to decide how much trust to put in their words. This has the added bonus of allowing us to imagine what it tells us about the Romans who might have spread such stories about the emperor. Even dreams and rumours are a real, and often very important, part of the historical milieu, insofar as they can dramatically influence someone’s public image and the way they interact with those around them.
The script was written by me. Graphic novel scripts can be pretty simple, even just a “dialogue dump”, leaving the artist to do a lot of creative work. Our was much more detailed, like a movie script, nearly 150 pages and about 90k words long. It included many links to reference images, such as photographs I’d taken of artefacts in museums, or sculptures, and ruins or landscapes at historic locations. One day I’d like to release some more side-by-side images showing how Zé used photos of historical artefacts, etc., to inspire his illustrations.
I travelled to many museums and historical locations around the world, during my research. I spent about a week at Carnuntum in Austria, for instance, the archeological site of the Roman legionary fortress where Marcus stationed himself throughout much of the First Marcomannic War. We shot video and took many photographs there.
I also interviewed the museum director and head of archeological research at Carnuntum. In the archeological park, they have a full reconstruction of a Roman villa from the time of Marcus Aurelius, which was a huge help to us in illustrating the decor and furnishings of various rooms in our graphic novel.
I also spent a great deal of time in Greece, travelling to many museums there and archeological sites, such as the Agora and Stoa Poikile, Eleusis, and Delphi, which inspired scenes in our book. I don’t have much Latin but I do read a little ancient Greek and began learning to speak modern Greek. (I applied for and now have my official “permanent resident” status in Greece.)
It was also important to me that the dialogue in Verissimus should seem natural and believable. Here’s a tip: a good way to do that for a historical novel is by reading ancient letters, especially private ones. I made lists, for instance, of all the oaths (“By Hercules!”) and greetings (“Best of masters!”) used in Marcus Aurelius’ correspondence with his rhetoric tutor, Marcus Cornelius Fronto. Poetry also provides a good source of material for various idioms and colloquial expressions. We used this to create more authentic dialogue for our characters. Sometimes this surprises people, incidentally. They don’t expect Romans to use Greek god names, for instance, but they certainly did. Forms of address are sometimes not quite as some readers expect. Marcus was often addressed as Caesar or, especially in a military setting, as Imperator. (Some people mistakenly believe that “Caesar” was a title used to denote the emperor’s designed successor but it is more like a cognomen, also retained by the emperor in office.) In the Meditations, incidentally, Marcus actually refers to himself by his dynastic name, Antoninus, and we know others commonly referred to him in this way, especially in official contexts. His close friends called him Marcus, but we never find him simply referred to as Aurelius, his adoptive family name.
Zé particularly enjoyed illustrating the dreams and visions as he didn’t have to worry quite as much about historical accuracy in these scenes and was able to express his artistry more freely, by creating fantastic images.
Shortly after we began, I realized that some of the scenes resembled a genre I hadn’t anticipated drawing upon: horror. Kasey helped us to approach nightmares, graphic war imagery, and scenes of the devastation caused by plague, with more of a “horror aesthetic” in mind.
As a kid I read the British comic 2000 AD religiously. What I loved most was that there were small details in the background of the panels that I didn’t notice at first but could enjoy on rereading my favorite comic strips. I realized that adding subtle cues to the background can really add another dimension to the artwork so we carefully planned ways to do this in Verissimus, such as by including various animals — birds taking flight, dogs fighting, etc. — in the background of panels, as well as other forms of action. To avoid making the world visually monotonous we tried to show various locations and different types of buildings, as well as incorporating dreams, visions, and flashbacks. We also varied the nine-panel page layout, e.g., by using vertical or horizontal strips for panels and many full-page splash pages, which we hoped could be used to create posters.
I was fortunate enough to be able to consult with several classicists and scholars of ancient philosophy, who advised me on various details, from language to culture and philosophy. In particular, the classicist Robin Waterfield, was kind enough to review the entire manuscript and provide detailed feedback and advice before publication — I owe him a lot of thanks for that!
I hope that’s of interest to readers, and maybe these notes could even help other authors working on graphic novels like ours.
Verissimus has been reviewed very positively since its release and was chosen as an Amazon Editor’s pick for Best History Book. The foreign rights have already been sold for the Brazilian Portuguese edition and I hope many other translations will follow. You can already order the hardback or ebook of the English edition from Amazon or, indeed, from anywhere they sell books!