Philosophy meets history meets psychology

“How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic philosophy of Marcus Aurelius” by Donald Robertson

This book is first and foremost a book about Stoicism, viewed through the lens of arguably its last true great philosopher, Marcus Aurelius. The book also partly an application of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, in which the author, Donald Robertson, is an expert.

Now, if Stoicism is a practical philosophy, then Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is an applied Stoicism. And there’s probably nothing more direct than an applied Stoicism from Marcus Aurelius’ way of thinking, that were shaped through his incredible life story.

The book covers a lot of grounds, from his traumatic events, defining moments, his struggles, his triumphs, the stories of all of his teachers and his surroundings, the backstabbing, the death of some of his children, and eventually his acquired wisdom throughout the journey from a child with no ties to the aristocracy to become one of the Four Good Emperors that Roman Empire ever had.

All of that are narrated alongside the absolute gem of the book: the analysis of the many Stoic virtues that Marcus Aurelius implement for every single occurrence in his turbulent story, that are so inspiring.

The final chapter of the book in particular, about Marcus Aurelius’ reflections on his death bed, is absolutely moving. And in the audiobook version Robertson’s tone of voice is deliberately lowered down to make the chapter more solemn, which is a very nice touch.

All in all, it is often hard for us to imagine the practicality of things when only presented as theories, and find it much easier to grasps them once we witness the theories being implemented. This book is about the latter, hence it is one of the most actionable books on Stoicism that I’ve ever read. Another masterpiece from Robertson.