Sunday, December 2, 2012

"Live A Good Life": About that totally bogus Marcus Aurelius quote that has been floating around

The image is a bust of Caracalla by Bartolomeo Cavaceppi.
Anyone who is familiar with the ancient Stoic philosophers knows that they were staunch defenders of traditional religion, including especially the worship of the traditional Gods and Goddesses and the dutiful enactment of rituals and other outward expressions of the ancient Pagan cults.

In particular, central to the Stoic conception of "the good life" is piety toward the Goddesses and Gods.

This pious attitude concerning the Gods is expressed very clearly and frequently in our two most important primary sources on Stoicism: the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius and the Discourses of Epictetus, as well as in our most extensive source of information concerning Stoic views of religion: Cicero's On the Nature of the Gods (although a Platonist, Cicero is considered a very accurate source of information on Stoicism, and was especially sympathetic to Stoic views on religion).

We can also examine the works of Zeno, Cleanthes and Chrysippus, the early founders of Stoicism, thanks to the work of P.A. Meijer who has collected together, translated and commented upon the remaining fragments of their writings on religious subjects in his masterful book "Stoic Theology". Meijer makes it very clear that the earliest Stoics strongly asserted that both "veneration" (the performance of traditional worship) and "piety" (the proper attitude toward the Gods) were essential to living well.


Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, online:

Epictetus' Discourses, online:

Cicero's On the Nature of the Gods (translated by P.G. Walsh):

P.A. Meijer's Stoic Theology:

18th century bust of Caracalla by Bartolomeo Cavaceppi at the Getty Museum:

Various sightings of the bogus Marcus Aurelius quote from around teh internets (often found in people's "signature block"):
Oct 14th 2009

August 24, 2007

June 14, 2007



6 October 2003