The Roman Emperor and the Four Virtues
Happy Birthday Marcus Aurelius!
Dear Classical Wisdom Kids,
Happy Birthday Marcus Aurelius! We love to celebrate the ancient Roman emperor because he really helps us understand ancient Stoic philosophy and the four virtues that the Stoics felt were very important.
Classical Wisdom Kids Club Members, we’ll release more fun activities, worksheets, the video, etc later this week! In the meantime, make sure to enjoy our short story on the life and lessons of Marcus Aurelius, below.
All the best,
Founder and Director
Classical Wisdom and Classical Wisdom Kids
Marcus Aurelius and the Four Virtues
By Sean Kelly
It’s Marcus Aurelius’ birthday today! Happy birthday to Marcus Aurelius!
He was born in the year 121 AD. So it’s his 1902nd birthday.
Even though he lived a very long time ago, people still celebrate his birthday. That’s because Marcus Aurelius was a philosopher and a Roman emperor. No one else has ever done both!
Not only that, he’s remembered for being one of the best emperors of ancient Rome. He ruled during a time of peace and happiness for the Roman people. This time was called the Pax Romana and was one of the greatest times for the Roman empire.
Yet he’s even better remembered for his philosophy.
Marcus Aurelius was a type of philosopher called a Stoic. This means that he understood that the important thing about someone’s life wasn’t the things that happened to them. What was important was how they reacted to these things.
For example, just because something didn’t go the way he would have wanted, Marcus Aurelius would not have gotten angry. He would have stayed calm instead and realized that it was something out of his control.
In fact, this is an important thing to realize, that some things are in your control, like your actions and your reaction to things, while many things like other people's opinions and the weather, are out of your control. Many adults don’t even realize this!
Marcus Aurelius also understood that it was important to be virtuous. This meant always doing the right thing. Or, at the very least, trying to do the right thing.
There were actually four cardinal virtues that the Stoics, and Marcus Aurelius, thought were important. They were wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice.
Practical wisdom is the ability to judge what is good, bad or indifferent. Seeing these differences helps us make good choices.
Courage is the ability to stay strong and remain calm, even when things are difficult.
Temperance is using self control, discipline and restraint. It is also called moderation.
Finally, Justice, or morality, is about doing what is right and fair, particularly when the going gets tough. This means you should be honest and fair, no matter what.
As an emperor, Marcus Aurelius had to deal with all kinds of different people. Sometimes the people he had to deal with could be rude or mean. It didn’t matter to Marcus Aurelius. He knew this was out of his control, and so he was patient and calm and focused on being a good person.
So, we thought it would be best to end with some wise words from the birthday boy himself:
“If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it.”
“It is the gentle who have strength and courage – not the ones complaining.”
“Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.”
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Enjoy the PDF, complete with word bank, below (along with review, discussion points, and games) :
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