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.
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.
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.
Our graphic novel, Verissimus: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius, was published by St. Martin’s on 12th July. There are lots of early reviews of Verissimus already on Goodreads. This post contains a video review by Greg Sadler and links to various other reviews by bloggers. (If I’ve missed one, post it in the comments section below please!)
Casey Douglas: “The imagery brings the life of Marcus, and various elements of Stoic philosophy, into a rich and vibrant level of clarity, and it does this in a way that’s as enjoyable as it is educational.”
What is Stoicism?: “The great thing about Verissimus is that it’s accessible to people of all levels of expertise. Not only will it introduce Stoicism to a new audience, but it will also help reinforce key details and concepts for those already familiar.”
Enda Harte: “Donald and his small team have crafted a well thought out, thoroughly researched, and cleverly illustrated piece of work for anyone to pick up on any given weekend, and digest to their heart’s content.”
Bob Cymber, the Stoic Coach: “I would come to appreciate the Stoic philosophy of Marcus Aurelius even more than I thought possible.”
Nancy Famolari: “It is also a delight to read. If you’re interested in Roman history, or Stoic philosophy, I highly recommend this book.”
Jamie Ryder at Stoic Athenaeum: “Donald Robertson’s Verissimus is an ideal story for making Stoicism fun for a new generation.”
Chuck Chakrapani in the Stoic Gym: “Donald Robertson and Ze Nuno Fraga have done a masterful job of bringing the dead Emperor to life. By interweaving Marcus’s philosophy with his life, they have made Stoicism come alive.”
There was also a more critical review in Publisher’s Weekly: the reviewer thought the story packed in too much history and philosophy.
“Donald Robertson is one of my favorite writers about Stoicism.” – Ryan Holiday, #1 New York Times bestselling author and founder of The Daily Stoic
“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
“Whether you’re new to Marcus Aurelius or already know him as a friend and guide, this graphic novel will open your eyes… Author and artist have found… a brilliant combination of entertainment and education.” – Robin Waterfield, translator of Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus
“Verissimus represents the vanguard of the next phase of the ongoing Stoic renaissance.” – William B. Irvine, author of A Guide to the Good Life
“A remarkable work that is awesome in its conception and execution.” – Karen Duffy, author of Backbone: Living with Chronic Pain without Turning into One and Wise Up
“This is a wonderful and engaging introduction to the life and thought of Marcus Aurelius… It’s the perfect book for anyone who wants to learn more about the man behind the Meditations.” – John Sellars, author of Lessons in Stoicism
“Donald Robertson continues to be my teacher when it comes to the depth of Stoicism… Invaluable!” – Mo Gawdat, author of Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy.
What does Stoic philosophy tell us about how to control our tempers? When we began working on our graphic novel, Verissimus, the illustrator, Zé Nuno Fraga, and I decided to show how colourful and action-packed Marcus Aurelius’ life really was. We also liked the idea, however, of leaving our readers with a good amount of practical advice from Stoicism, which they could take away and use to help themselves and others.
I chose to focus on Stoic advice about anger — the royal road to self-improvement.
I chose to focus on Stoic advice about anger — the royal road to self-improvement. We know that this was a problem for Marcus because he tells us in the Meditations that he struggled, at first, to master his own temper. Later in life, Marcus had a reputation for remaining completely level-headed, even in the face of extreme provocation. So it appears that he succeeded in using Stoicism to master his natural quick temper. He did this by employing Stoic psychological practices, over and over again, on a daily basis. I can see parallels between many of these strategies and those employed in modern cognitive therapy. So I think that, with practice, they may help the rest of us cope with our feelings of anger too.
It was one of the men who provoked Marcus’ temper the most, ironically, who also taught him how to restore calm and rebuild friendships after an argument — his Stoic mentor, Junius Rusticus. We therefore speculated, in our illustrations, that it could have been Rusticus who taught Marcus the ten anger-management strategies he describes using in the Meditations (11.18). Marcus, curiously, refers to these as ten “gifts” from the god Apollo, and his nine Muses. Apollo, Lord of the Muses, was the god of the arts, including the arts of medicine and, in a sense, also philosophy. It’s perhaps fitting, therefore, that Marcus would call these therapeutic strategies, or self-help tips, gifts from the god of healing.
Marcus describes things he should tell himself whenever he noticed he was growing annoyed with someone. I would call these cognitive (thinking) strategies for anger-management. In this article, I’ll discuss each of his ten strategies in turn, adding a few comments, here and there, from my perspective as a cognitive-behavioural psychotherapist.
Below you can read three sample web comics about the Stoic philosophy of Marcus Aurelius that I created with award-winning illustrator Zé Nuno Fraga. Each one links a passage in the Meditations with one of Aesop’s Fables. (Marcus mentions the Town Mouse fable in the Meditations.)