How to Think Like a Roman Emperor

The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius
Narrated by: Donald Robertson
Length: 8 hrs and 30 mins
5 out of 5 stars (1,498 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The life-changing principles of Stoicism taught through the story of its most famous proponent.

Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius was the final famous Stoic philosopher of the ancient world. The Meditations, his personal journal, survives to this day as one of the most loved self-help and spiritual classics of all time. In How to Think Like a Roman Emperor, psychotherapist Donald Robertson weaves stories of Marcus’ life from the Roman histories together with explanations of Stoicism - its philosophy and its psychology - to enlighten today’s listeners. He discusses Stoic techniques for coping with everyday problems, from irrational fears and bad habits to anger, pain, and illness. 

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor takes listeners on a transformative journey along with Marcus, following his progress from a young noble at the court of Hadrian - taken under the wing of some of the finest philosophers of his day - through to his reign as emperor of Rome at the height of its power. Robertson shows how Marcus used philosophical doctrines and therapeutic practices to build emotional resilience and endure tremendous adversity, and guides listeners through applying the same methods to their own lives. 

Combining remarkable stories from Marcus’s life with insights from modern psychology and the enduring wisdom of his philosophy, How to Think Like a Roman Emperor puts a human face on Stoicism and offers a timeless and essential guide to handling the ethical and psychological challenges we face today.

©2019 Donald Robertson (P)2019 Macmillan Audio

Critic Reviews

"This book is a wonderful introduction to one of history's greatest figures: Marcus Aurelius. His life and this book are a clear guide for those facing adversity, seeking tranquility and pursuing excellence." (Ryan Holiday, best-selling author of The Obstacle Is the Way and The Daily Stoic)

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Philosophy asks and analyzes the questions that have pressed on humankind for centuries: What does it mean to be human? Why are we here? How should we relate to each other? From ancient to contemporary times, these questions have been answered with varying, and sometimes contradictory, schools of thought. Draw parallels across time to dive deep into questions about the fundamental nature of our reality on macro and micro levels alike.

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Marvelous mix of a biography with stoicism and CBT

This is one of the best books I've read/listened to over the past 12 months (and I read/listen to a lot of books).

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor is really 3 books in one: 1) a biography of the great stoic philosopher and roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, 2) an exposure of important stoic teachings regarding virtue, resilience, dealing with anxiety, pain, anger and death, and 3) a presentation of modern CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) principles and techniques that connect with the ancient stoic teachings and further develop them.

The three components are intertwined seamlessly in each chapter and throughout the whole book, giving the book a good flow and pacing.

I found the story of the life of Marcus Aurelius very interesting and inspiring, and the stoicism and CBT advice very well explained and useful. Highly recommend this book.

24 people found this helpful

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Stoicism is Relevent

Excellent Book, Excellent Author and Excellent Narration by the author. Everyone I talk to Adores his accent!

Marcus Aurelius believed in the Promise of Philosophy: which is to quell rage, endure pain, conquer fears, eliminate worries, even face the bugbear of death itself with equanimity. Who doesn't want that? It promises a fulfilling (Eudaimonic) and pro-social life. We can really use more of this now, and quick!

These promises are not to be had easily, but they are possible. We see evidence of this by carefully examining the lives of people who have used this system before such as Cato the younger, Seneca, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, as well as people of our own time: James Stockdale, David Goggins to name a couple.

To them, Philosophy wasn't something you just thought about, it was something you practiced and did! Dedicating every waking thought and action of your life to. But where are the university professors teaching this, and where are the celebrities and political leaders showing this by example? To be a practice, like Weight-training, Yoga or Brazilian Jujitsu, you got to actually have a program of "stuff" to do and practice, as well as an explanation why. Donald Robertson provides these things in a systematic, fascinating, entertaining, not to mention thought-provoking way. When you read this book, I believe you will be impelled to think and Act, and begin to realize that the promises of Philosophy are not just some impossible dreams, but as a reasoning human being, are not only obtainable, but may already be within your grasp.

I've followed Robertson's work for a few years now, and have looked forward to this book for a long time, and am on my second listen. enjoy! :D

20 people found this helpful

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Wow! Perhaps the most important book I've read.

I am definitely going to be relistening to it several times.

Stoicism is power over oneself.

The author did a masterful job of telling a riveting story of the life of Marcus Aurelius blended with stoic philosophy and modern psychotherapeutic techniques such as CBT.

And a real BONUS, the author has a good voice and he does a top-notch job on the audiobook.

4 people found this helpful

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A superb book on Stoicism!

This is a fascinating and book for anybody interested in learning more about Stoicism and improving their life and their character. It is full of techniques to help deal with anxiety, chronic pain, grief and the end of life. It is written in a very compelling style, weaving together the teachings of Stoicism with fascinating details about Marcus Aurelius and his precarious life as a Roman Emperor and modern Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The author, Donald Robertson, with his lovely Scottish accent reads the book beautifully. I heartily recommend this book for everyone!

4 people found this helpful

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Outstanding

I count this book in the top 5 of Stoic teaching. Part history and Method, it combines the two beautifully. The narrator compliments the content exceptionally well.

4 people found this helpful

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life changing

if you're struggling with addiction, behavioral control, or just want to be a better person and improve yourself, this is the book for you! amazing narration and an amazing combination of history and philosophy

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Great Book! Wish it was longer.

I've read a lot of Stoic books in the last 10 years. I think this is now my favorite introduction to Stoicism. Donald captures the key points and misunderstandings and tells the story of Marcus Aurelius along the way. Please keep writing!

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Helpful/Applicable Stories

Was very interesting. The stories of Marcus Aurelius's life help to frame the proposed philosophies well.

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extremely easy to digest

great insight of the ancient stoics with very actionable methods of dealing with adversity. it makes me realize where the best book authors I have read get their knowledge. now I will enjoy going back to bits and pieces of the book for maintenance. A great operating system for life!

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I'll be recommending this book to a lot of people

A brilliant guide to modern Stoicism.
An amazing insight into the life and philosophy of Marcus Aurelius.
A well researched companion to "Meditations".
A very accessible and less clinical approach to CBT.
A fantastic introduction to Greek/Roman Philosophy.

I'm quite particular with audio/narration, Listening through headphones, Donald has a great voice but it has a lot of low end and the audio is recorded/mixed with quite a lot of top end/sibilance. If this bothers you, listen through an app that allows you to EQ them out. Or don't and use it as an opportunity to practice virtue.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-17-19

This book got me through a difficult time.

I started listening to this at a difficult time while a loved one was struggling through an illness. I couldn't be more grateful to the whole presentation and it's well written.

11 people found this helpful

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  • august year
  • 06-16-19

Amazing

A newby to philosophy, I was given the letters of Seneca to read which I threw in the bin because it was so boring. This book written and read by Donald Robertson was an eye-opener. It’s sparked my interest in philosophy,psychotherapy,history and even the role of ancient religion in how to live a purpose-filed life. I like the narrator’s accent and narration style. I will certainly be reading/listening to more by him!

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  • Mr. Ds Phillips
  • 07-15-19

Brilliant and insightful

One of the best explorations of Stoicism, and perhaps its most well-known exponent, that I’ve come across. Easy to follow, insightful and highly relevant to modern living. The author has a great voice which lends itself perfectly to the audiobook. Hope to see more from Donald Robertson in the future.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 06-19-19

Great book

I like it very much. Highly recommended for the stories and the content it offers to the readers

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-17-20

Phenomenal

One of the few books I can say I'll remember. Got introduced to Stoicism through Ryan Holiday, and this could not be a better follow up.
Throughout the book felt truly like an equal to Marcus Aurelius, and understood that the things I face are the same things millennia ago (fundamentally), and that ancient wisdom survived for a reason, and best to listen to it
Thank you very much to the author for the lovely narration and a phenomenal book

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  • Harley
  • 12-22-19

Generally an enjoyable listen but...

Started out as a very enjoyable listen, a wonderful introduction to Stoicism and Marcus. I particularly enjoyed the way that the philosophy is runs alongside a biography of Marcus's life. The author reads this beautifully. My only criticism is that the author seems to have gone to great lengths to strain religious considerations from Marcus's thinking, I'm not sure if this has been done to reflect the authors bias or through fear of alienating potential readers. One of the later chapters where the author poses as Marcus's inner monologue as he's dying is insufferably grandiose and self indulgent, I'm sorry but nobody finds comfort in the concept of oblivion, not Marcus, not you, not me. But if you want to make that case then do it yourself, don't use dead philosophers to parrot your own thoughts and feelings, it was in poor taste to a perverse degree. Perhaps the reason why Marcus was able to face his death with such dignity was because he thought that he was going to a better place? We'll never know, not least because this idea isn't even acknowledged in the book.

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  • Tom
  • 09-17-19

Great book but for me it was fantastic during the last chapter

There were times I found myself switching off a little bit but I put that down to my lack of knowledge of Marcus Aurelius and this type of history in general. This meant I wasn’t sure what were his words or the authors at times. I will do a bit of research and go back over the bits I wasn’t sure of as I’ll enjoy it more with more clarity. The last chapter on death was lovely to listen to and quite emotive. I will listen to this chapter as a sort of meditation and way to gain perspective as it was superb. Overall a great book

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  • Mr. S. Jennings
  • 07-16-19

Outstanding

Straight in as one of my top stoicism books. It will be read and re read for many years to come. Absolutely love it.

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  • Ian Lewis
  • 04-28-20

Inspirational

Inspirational. Outstanding narration.
I had already listened to a lot about Marcus and this added needed depth. I am more interested than ever in Stoicism now and it was very interesting to hear what it has gone on to influence.

1 person found this helpful

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  • RogerNZ
  • 04-13-20

A good presentation of Stoicism

I enjoyed this introduction to Stoicism, but the weakness with Stoicism is that it totally neglects the queen of the sciences: metaphysics, which must form the basis of any sound philosophy.

Metaphysics need not be arid and overly bookish; Aristotle and Aquinas for all their speculative ponderings were not less practical than Marcus Aurelius. in fact, the aristotelian metaphysicians have a far sounder foundation on which to base their ethics than the stoics.

This work presents many helpful tools to transform one's life, but one ought to keep in mind that there is much more to the pursuit of wisdom than the laudable contributions of the Stoics.

Robertsons reading was excellent.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Mezm
  • 04-03-20

Most Excellent

This is a book about historical dudes being most excellent to each other, and how you can learn to go about being excellent to your fellow dudes.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Steven Richards
  • 04-24-19

Great book

Loved it I highly recommend this book great insight into Stoicism and Marcus Aurelius good for anyone new to Stoicism

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  • Alan
  • 07-30-19

A Great Read on Stoicism

The book overall is a really great read on stoicism. It gives you life tips and views which have the possibility to change one's life. It teaches us how to be calmer in any situation, how to stop fearing death and more. In addition, the book has sections which are written and spoken more like a history textbook rather than a self-help book. This is in no way a bad thing, however, it may put some people off.

The only problems I have with the book is the narration and the final chapter. The narration isn't bad by any means, it just takes a little while to get used to the Scottish accent of the narrator, however, this is a very trivial complaint. Another issue I had with the book is the final chapter, specifically the middle of it. It honestly sounded borderline like the writer had an acid trip and began running his mouth, it just felt like babbling more than anything else, however, this was also a very small complaint.

Overall, the book is definitely worth the read and the purchase, I would give it 4.5/5 stars if I were able to.

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  • Dylan
  • 05-02-19

Brilliant five star

This is s must read for everybody 10/10 . Donald Robertson has the voice to deliver this well written interpretation of stoic philosophy.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-09-19

beside Marcus Aurelius<br />

best audio book I have listened to.
at times you feel like you are beside Marcus Aurelius on his journey. excellent life lessons . I love Philosophy again.

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  • Scott
  • 09-05-19

Very nice

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-05-20

Eye opening wisdom

This is the first time I’ve picked up/listened to a book in years and I finished it in 3 days. They way Robertson weaves together the stories of Aurelius, practices of Stoicism and its modern day implementation in CBT is seamless. I learned a lot about myself and the world in the 7ish hours listening to this book than the last few years. The only bad thing is that the introduction to the book is played at the very end which would have been nice to hear at the begging, but it doesn’t matter. Amor Fati.

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  • asdavies.au
  • 06-19-20

A very good introduction to Stoicism

I have found in the past that various ancient philosophies can be a bit difficult to digest. This book distils some of the wisdom of Stoicism but also provides a fun history lesson into the Roman Empire and provides the proper context. As it happens, the problems and concerns of people in that era are almost identical to the concerns of modern people.

I feel that the modern world is an increasingly unhappy place and a some of that unhappiness stems from people's attitudes towards things that are beyond their control. I feel that Stoicism is quite a good antidote to that. I look back on unhappy events in my own life and feel that I would have been better prepared for those events had I been familiar with Stoicism.

The narration is excellent and very soothing. I fully expect to listen to this book several times over my life. What more can you ask for?

After digesting this book, I am now reading Seneca's letters, which are freely available online or you can purchase the Audible audiobook "Tao of Senenca, Volume 1". Again, I am finding the ancient wisdom easy to absorb and relate to.

It is remarkable how relatable the concerns and wisdom of ancient Romans are to modern life. I feel very empowered and fortunate to have stumbled on this. It does not require accepting any religious or supernatural belief system and can most likely augment whatever faith you subscribe to, including non-belief.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-17-20

words of wisdom

It was symphony to listen to, so therapeutic and calming. It is a book that you will want to keep going back to and making it a cornerstone in which you live your life.

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  • Anthony D
  • 01-24-20

it is transformative a beautifully authored work

it's philosophy and interpretation is so beautiful that words do no do it justice, it gives us a glimpse into the beauty of nature, man and existence.