10 Powerful Quotes from “The Emperor’s Handbook”

  • Book: “The Emperor’s Handbook” by Marcus Aurelius
  • Pages: 160
  • For: Anyone interested in philosophy, living a good life or looking for meaning in life
  • Lesson: Learn to live a fulfilling life while being a virtuous person


Marcus Aurelius is known for his role as Emperor of Rome during the 2nd century AD when he ruled Rome at the height of its power and was, in many ways, the figure described in Plato’s dream of a philosopher-king.

When Marcus was three years old, his father passed away. Marcus was raised by his mother, and they moved in with their grandfather. When Hadrian, the emperor of Rome, visited the house, he believed Marcus was destined for greatness. In his will, Hadrian wrote that the next ruler should adopt Marcus. The new emperor, Antoninus Pius, did just that.


Marcus spent twenty years working with the emperor, learning how to rule and become a leader. After Antoninus Pius died, Marcus would assume the role of emperor of Rome.

Although Marcus became one of the most powerful men in the world, he did not chase wealth, power or fame. Nor did he fall to any other temptation of evil. He would rule Rome in a just and virtuous manner. He kept a journal where he wrote all the important lessons he learned during his life. This journal would become known as the “Meditations” or “The Emperor’s Handbook.” Here are ten powerful quotes from his book.

                          Sculpture of Marcus Aurelius 

                          Sculpture of Marcus Aurelius 

Do not waste the rest of your life speculating about others in ways that are not to your mutual advantage. Think of all that might be accomplished in the time you throw away–distracted from the voice of your own true and reasonable self–wondering what the next man is up to and why, what he’s saying, or thinking, or plotting. Purge your mind of all aimless and idle thoughts, especially those that pry into the affairs of others or wish them ill.

— Page 34


If you pursue the matter at hand along the straight path of reason...if you keep your divine spirit pure and blameless, as though this were the moment to give it back; if expecting nothing and fearing nothing, you are content to act in accord with nature and to speak with heroic honesty–then you will live well. And no power on earth can stop you.
— Page 38


Everyone dreams of the perfect vacation...you too long to get away and find that idyllic spot, yet how foolish...when at any time you are capable of finding that perfect vacation in yourself. Nowhere is there a more idyllic spot, a vacation home more private and peaceful, than in one’s own mind...take this vacation as often as you like, and so charge your spirit.

— Page 41


Is it not better simply to do what is necessary and no more, to limit yourself to what reason demands...this adds to the happiness of doing a few things the satisfaction of having done them well. Most of what we say and do is unnecessary anyway; subtract all that lot, and look at the time and contentment you’ll gain.

— Page 46


Look around you and see how everything is perpetually changing, and get used to the idea that nature loves nothing more than to change the things that are and to make more things like them come into being. In a way, everything is a seed of the thing that grows out of it.

— Page 49


Persuade me or prove to me that I am mistaken in thought or deed, and I will gladly change–for it is the truth I seek, and the truth never harmed anyone. Harm comes from persisting in error and clinging to ignorance.

— Page 69


The happiness of those who want to be popular depends on others; the happiness of those who seek pleasure fluctuates with moods outside their control; but the happiness of the wise grows out of their own free acts.

— Page 75


One thing alone troubles me: the thought that I might do what my true self does not will or that I might do what it wills in the wrong way or at the wrong time.

— Page 80


Don’t hanker after what you don’t have. Instead, fix your attentions on the finest and best that you have, and imagine how much you would long for these if they weren’t in your possession. At the same time, don’t become so attached to these things that you would be distraught if you were to lose them.

— Page 81


Why do you hesitate or second-guess yourself when you know perfectly well what ought to be done? If you know where you need to go, make a considerate but determined effort to get there. If you don’t, wait and seek the best advice you can find...Relaxed but alert, cheerful but determined–such is reason’s faithful follower.

— Page 117