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Marcus Aurelius Stoicism Verissimus

Verissimus: Top-Rated on Amazon

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.

Verissimus Cover
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Books Stoicism Verissimus

Verissimus Sweepstake Alert

We’re delighted to announce that my publisher St. Martin’s Press has generously agreed to give away three signed copies of How to Think Like a Roman Emperor.

Just share your favourite images from the book on social media and use #Verissimus!

How to Enter

  • Share a photo of the cover of Verissimus, or of the artwork inside, on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, using the hashtag #Verissimus.
  • We will pick three winners at random after 7th September, the closing date for entries.
  • This sweepstake is open to residents of the US and Canada only.
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Books Philosophy Philosophy of CBT Psychotherapy Stoicism

The Books I’ve Written on Stoicism

I’ve published about seven books so far on philosophy and psychotherapy. People often ask about one book but aren’t aware of the others so I’ve put together a short article explaining what they’re about. If you’re interested, you can see more info on my publications, including journal articles, some foreign translations, and books on psychotherapy not mentioned below, on my Google Scholar, Goodreads, and Amazon profile pages.

1. Ancient Lives: Marcus Aurelius (in press)

This is a prose biography of Marcus Aurelius, which will be part of the new Yale University Press Ancient Lives series, edited by James Romm. This book is finished and should (I think) be published around Spring 2023. This was the third book that I wrote in a row about Marcus Aurelius. It focuses on how Stoic philosophy influenced his life, and his rule as emperor, and how his personal relationships shaped and reveal aspects of his character. For instance, the first chapter focuses on Marcus’ relationship with his mother. I’ll publish more details on social media as they become available.

2. Verissimus: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius

Verissimus Cover

Verissimus is a graphic novel, published in July 2022, by St, Martin’s Press. It tells the story of Marcus Aurelius’ life in comic-book panels, with a lot of emphasis on his study and application of Stoic philosophy, particularly how it helped him to conquer his anger.

This was the second of three books that I wrote about the life of Marcus Aurelius, and how it connected with his philosophy. The graphic novel format meant that it’s a very different experience, though, from reading a prose biography or a self-help book. I wrote this book for adults – it’s a graphic novel not a comic – but I have to admit that a lot of readers have said their kids were attracted to the cover design and artwork, and stole their copy!

3. How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor (2019) is a self-help book. Most of the chapters begin with an anecdote from the life of Marcus Aurelius, closely based on the surviving historical sources. This is followed by a discussion of how Stoic philosophy can be applied in daily life, and then a comparison with techniques from modern cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), which draw on my clinical background as a psychotherapist.

When I first proposed this book the title and the idea of combining three genres (history, philosophy, and psychology) seemed controversial – like a bit of a gamble – but it worked. Roman Emperor is my most popular book. It was the number one bestselling philosophy book in the US in the weeks following its release and was reviewed in the Wall Street Journal. It’s since been translated into eighteen different languages.

4. Teach Yourself: Stoicism and the Art of Happiness

Stoicism and the Art of Happiness (2013) is part of Hodder’s popular Teach Yourself series. It was so popular that a revised second edition was published in 2018, which added an extra chapter on death contemplation. This is a self-help book, which provides careful instructions on how to apply Stoic practices in daily life. It also includes many comparisons with cognitive-behavioural therapy and other evidence-based psychological strategies.

The Teach Yourself series follows a strict and well-established format. Chapters begin with relevant quotes, and short quizzes, and include practical exercises, guides to terminology, key points to remember, examples, recommended reading, etc. It’s designed to make it easy to put the advice into practice in daily life.

5. Teach Yourself: Build your Resilience

build your resilience book cover

Build your Resilience (2012) was my first book for Hodder’s Teach Yourself series. It’s a self-help book about what psychologists call “emotional resilience training”, which is basically training in preventative strategies designed to reduce the risk of mental health problems in the future by making you more able to cope with stressful situations. Like Stoicism and the Art of Happiness, it follows a strict self-help guide format, with lots of info boxes, and practical steps described.

Resilience building draws heavily on cognitive-behavioural therapy but I mainly focused on recent “third-wave” approaches, particularly Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). There are also chapters discussing research on resilience and vulnerability, and evidence-based approaches to relaxation techniques, worry management, and problem-solving. This book contains a lot of practical psychological advice – I wrote it partly to be used by my own CBT clients and trainee therapists. However, it also contains a chapter on Stoicism and references to Stoicism are interspersed throughout, comparing Stoic concepts and techniques to the evidence-based psychological approaches employed in modern resilience training.

6. The Philosophy of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy: Stoic Philosophy as Rational and Cognitive Psychotherapy

Philosophy of CBT Cover 2nd Edition

The Philosophy of CBT (2010) was my first book on Stoicism. I’d already been researching the subject, writing about it, speaking about it at conferences, etc., for over a decade before I decided to publish a book. So it contains a wealth of research on the history of philosophy and psychotherapy. My first degree is in philosophy (Aberdeen) and my masters was in philosophy and psychotherapy, at an interdisciplinary centre in Sheffield University. I then trained in counselling and psychotherapy, which became my profession. I wanted to do a PhD about Stoic philosophy and cognitive-behavioural therapy but couldn’t find a university department with a suitably qualified supervisor. So, to cut a long story short, I ended up just writing a book, instead of a dissertation, which was published in the UK by Karnac.

Karnac were later bought by Routledge, who commissioned me to produce a revised second edition in 2020, as the book had become so popular. The new edition contains an additional chapter focusing on more recent “third-wave” approaches to cognitive-behavioural therapy, and how they compare to Stoicism. I was surprised at its reception because it was intended as an academic publication, aimed at philosophers and psychologists – but very few of them read it! Instead, by accident, it somehow reached a “lay” audience, who embraced it as a sort of self-help guide to Stoicism. So I accidentally found myself making the transition from academic researcher and writer, to self-help author.

Other Books

I’ve also contributed chapters to several books on Stoicism.

  1. “The Stoic Influence on Modern Psychotherapy” in The Routledge Handbook of the Stoic Tradition (2016), edited by John Sellars
  2. Introduction to Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations: The Philosophy Classic (Capstone Classics, 2020), which I also helped edit
  3. Introduction to Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic: The Ancient Classic (Capstone, 2021)
  4. “Marcus Aurelius and Psychotherapy” in The Cambridge Companion to Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations (in press).
Categories
Books Stoicism Stoicism

What are the five best novels about Stoicism?

Books where the characters discuss Stoic Philosophy

We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the neverending contest in ourselves of good and evil.

Steinbeck, East of Eden

One of the most commonly asked questions about Stoicism is whether there are any novels dealing with this philosophy. The question often get quite varied responses, including many references to poker-faced or unemotional characters. There’s a big difference between Batman, let’s say, or Clint Eastwood’s “Man with No Name”, one the one hand, and Epictetus or Marcus Aurelius, on the other. All over the Internet, people tend to confuse “stoicism” (lowercase), the unemotional personality trait or coping style, with “Stoicism” (capitalized), the ancient Greek philosophy — two quite different things.

This can be very misleading if you’re looking not merely for cold-blooded stoic characters but for stories featuring some of the wisdom from genuine Stoic philosophy. Fortunately, there are a handful of interesting novels, in which characters explicitly discuss the ancient philosophy, or which at least help us to understand the lives of genuine Stoics. These books vary enormously in style and content and will probably appeal to different types of readers. However, they can all contribute something of value to our appreciation of ancient Stoicism.

Read the rest of this article on Medium…

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Books Comics Marcus Aurelius Stoicism

Verissimus, the graphic novel

A superb graphic novel that provides stunning insights into one of the most interesting figures of antiquity, as well as into the philosophy that guided him throughout his life.

Massimo Pigliucci, author of How to Be a Stoic
Verissimus Cover Lightning

More info on where to order Verissimus is available from Macmillan, the publisher’s website. Also see listings in Barnes and Noble and Amazon. Comic stores can order Verissimus from the Diamond Previews World catalogue. Follow our Verissimus Facebook and Instagram pages for updates. Please contact us for podcast interviews and media requests.

About the Author

Donald Robertson is one of my favorite writers about Stoicism.

Ryan Holiday, #1 New York Times bestselling author and founder of The Daily Stoic

Donald Robertson is a cognitive-behavioural psychotherapist, who lives in Canada and Greece. He is the author of six books on philosophy and psychotherapy. His bestselling self-help book How to Think Like a Roman Emperor has been translated into eighteen languages.

Zé Nuno Fraga, who created the artwork, is an award-winning illustrator from Portugal. Kasey Pierce, who advised on the content, is an award-winning author and comic book editor.

Preorder Promotion

St. Martin’s are currently running a preorder promotion that means anyone buying Verissimus may be eligible for three different prizes.

Marcus and Commodus Verissimus

Sample Articles and Interviews

Donald has appeared on over 100 podcasts.

Japanese cover for How to Think Like a Roman Emperor by award-winning manga artist Mari Yamazaki.
Categories
Stoicism

Teach Yourself Stoicism and the Art of Happiness

Teach Yourself Stoicism and the Art of Happiness

New book due out Autumn 2013, by Donald Robertson, published by Hodder as part of the popular Teach Yourself series.  A practical introduction to Stoic philosophy as an ancient art of living, applied to the modern world.

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Excerpts Stoicism

Zeno meets King Antigonus (Excerpt from Teach Yourself Stoicism)

Zeno Meets King Antigonus

Teach Yourself Stoicism and the Art of HappinessCopyright © Donald Robertson, 2013.  All rights reserved. 

Excerpt from Teach Yourself Stoicism and the Art of Happiness (2013).

Following on from his example of a musician, a cithara-player, with stage fright, anxiety about impressing his audience, Epictetus refers to the contrasting example of Zeno of Citium, the founder of Stoicism. Zeno had some intensive training in overcoming social anxiety when he first began to study philosophy, and attached himself to the great Cynic philosopher Crates of Thebes. We’re told, after his shipwreck, as he wandered Athens penniless, at first he felt overly-concerned about what others would think of him. So one day Crates asked him to carry a clay pot full of lentil soup through the busy crowds in the potters’ district in Athens. This sort of thing was actually a common Cynic exercise in developing “shamelessness”. Zeno was worried looking foolish and tried to conceal the pot under his cloak. When Crates spotted this he smashed it with his staff, splattering the soup all over Zeno’s body, so it ran down his legs. “Courage my little Phoenician”, said Crates, “it’s nothing terrible, only soup!” In modern CBT deliberate “shame-attacking” exercises, such as walking around a shopping centre with a banana on a leash, are sometimes used to help people progressively overcome their sense of shame about looking foolish in public.

Anyway, repeated exercises like these eventually seem to have cured Zeno of his self-consciousness, as Epictetus advises us to contemplate his exemplary lack of anxiety when meeting the powerful Macedonian king Antigonus II Gonatas, several decades later. Antigonus was the ruler of many lands, and a powerful military leader, who sought the company of intellectuals and philosophers, including some Cynics. He travelled to Athens several times to listen to Zeno teach at the Stoa Poikilê. According to the story, Zeno was completely unconcerned when first meeting him because Antigonus had power over absolutely nothing that Zeno saw as important in life, and Zeno desired nothing that Antigonus possessed. Antigonus was more anxious about meeting Zeno, because he desired to make a good impression on the philosopher, although that was beyond his direct control. There’s a famous legend, almost certainly a myth, that Alexander the Great once visited Diogenes the Cynic, whom he greatly admired, and asked if he could do anything for him. Notoriously, Diogenes was said to have replied: “Yes, could you step aside, you’re blocking the sunlight right now.” In both these stories, a great king, despite his material wealth and power, is suddenly reduced in status when faced with a penniless philosopher who’s completely “indifferent” to external things.

As Chrysippus reputedly said, the famous Stoic paradox would have it that “Besides being free the wise are also kings, since kingship is rule that is answerable to no one” (Laertius, Lives, 7.122). Zeno was the true “king” here, because he needed nothing except virtue, which was entirely under his own rule; whereas Antigonus was a king only over “indifferent” external things, and perhaps, like most people, still a slave with regard to his own passions. According to Plutarch, Antigonus became particularly attached to the teachings of Zeno, and he may well have considered himself an aspiring Stoic. We’re told he later wrote to Zeno pleading him to travel to Macedonia and become his personal tutor. By that time Zeno was too old and frail to make the journey himself so he sent Persaeus instead, one of his best students (Laertius, Lives, 7.6). Antigonus reputedly wrote him a letter saying: “While in fortune and fame I deem myself your superior, in reason and education I own myself inferior, as well as in the perfect Happiness [eudaimonia] which you have attained.”

Categories
News Stoicism

New Book – Teach Yourself: Stoicism and the Art of Happiness (2013)

Teach Yourself:
Stoicism and the Art of Happiness (2013)

Teach Yourself: Stoicism and the Art of Happinessby Donald Robertson

Due for publication by Hodder, autumn 2013.  ISBN: 9781444187106.  You can pre-order from the publisher from Amazon and all major online booksellers.

Why, then, do you wonder that good men are shaken in order that they may grow strong?  No tree becomes rooted and sturdy unless many a wind assails it.  For by its very tossing it tightens its grip and plants its roots more securely; the fragile trees are those that have grown in a sunny valley.  It is, therefore, to the advantage even of good men, to the end that they may be unafraid, to live constantly amidst alarms and to bear with patience the happenings which are ills to him only who ill supports them. – Seneca, On Providence

This new addition to Hodder’s popular Teach Yourself series provides a detailed introduction to Stoic philosophy, with particular emphasis on applying Stoic ethics and therapy to modern living.  Donald Robertson is a registered psychotherapist, specialising in cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) for anxiety and other evidence-based approaches, with a background in academic philosophy.  He is the author of four previous books, two of which also deal with Stoicism and its relation to modern psychology and psychotherapy:

Stoicism and the Art of Happiness is the product of Donald’s experience over the past fifteen years, in his attempt to integrate the ancient wisdom of Stoic philosophy with modern evidence-based approaches to psychological therapy and stress management.

Chapters Include

  • Modern Stoicism
  • The Way of the Stoic: “Follow Nature”
  • The Promise of Philosophy (Eudaimona)
  • Interlude: Meet the Stoics
  • Stoic Ethics: The Nature of the Good
  • The Discipline of Judgement (Stoic Mindfulness)
  • Self-Awareness & the “Stoic Fork”
  • The Discipline of Desire (Stoic Acceptance)
  • Stoic Psychotherapy (Fear & Desire)
  • The View from Above & Stoic Cosmology
  • The Discipline of Action (Stoic Philanthropy)
  • Appropriate Action & the Reserve Clause
  • Love & Friendship in Stoicism
  • The Morning & Evening Meditations
  • Premeditation of Adversity
  • Contemplation of Death
  • Contemplation of the Sage