Essay Example: Philosophical Contributions of Marcus Aurelius in the Western Tradition

Published: 2023-09-26
Essay Example: Philosophical Contributions of Marcus Aurelius in the Western Tradition
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Philosophy Roman Empire Historical & political figures
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1574 words
14 min read

Most pieces of literature are aware of the contribution that Marcus Aurelius as an emperor. However, he also contributed to a lot of issues even before he was assigned an emperor. He added to philosophy and the literature of Rome during his early ages even before he got into the leadership position. His ideas of philosophy, research, and leadership contributed a lot to the current and the past Western tradition. Apart from his leadership style and character, which informed the Western culture, Emperor Marcus Aurelius used book meditations to highlight his favorite philosophical ideas, which are lessons applied to the Western tradition till in contemporary times. In the literary society of Rome, Marcus was the most distinguished member because of his manly talents. He was always appreciated for traveling from his native home in Africa to make a fortune in Rome. Marcus was a famous orature in the Senate and regarded as the head of world letters. Most scholars have alluded to him as the master of style and an admirable critic of literature. With the above introduction, it is clear how Marcus was an immense contributor to the various fields that he participated in. Below is a critical analysis of the philosophical contributions that Marcus Cornelius made to the Western tradition.

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Stoic Philosophy and the Political Western Tradition

Even though Marcus Aurelius did not invent Stoicism, he took part in making this philosophy part of the Western tradition. One character of Stoicism as a philosophical theory is that it has a strong leaning towards ethics, and places a lot of emphasis on the duty of leaders. The philosophy, through its recommendation, requires that a leader is chosen based on their state, god, and community. It was not a difficulty identifying that Marcus Aurelius' leadership skills exploited the stoicism philosophy (Aurelius 233). From his written philosophical meditation, it was deniable that he prioritized the purpose of moral activity and not a success. The most scholar has pointed out that one of the most cultural achievements of Marcus Aurelius was his reinstatement of the philosophy of Stoicism in Athens during his reign. Stoicism aimed at making the people of west resilient.

The inference from the philosophy that Marcus Aurelia installed in the Western tradition is the need for leaders to keep their jurisdiction secure. By secure, Marcus did not emphasize the necessity of having a robust military army as the priority. Marcus required a basis to secure the ever-changing soc-political and socio-economic landscape of the people of the west. To change the social-economic view of the west, stoicism philosophy stressed achieving the social welfare of the people. He insisted that there could be political obstacles, as is the case for any leader, but the leader should endeavor to ensure that the social of their people are secure. The analysis of leaders providing strong leadership by providing social welfare has been a philosophy used in the Western direction. In Rome, through the new perspective brought forward by Marcus, the leadership structure had to change. In the 6th century, the monarchial leadership was abolished, and a republic leadership was adapted (Sedgwick 144). Through the philosophical analysis by Marcus, the republic was a platform where the social issues of the people would be represented better. The government was ruled by a senate, which was supposed to be a representative of the people. This representative tradition of leadership has been used till today. Western leadership system is based on representatives of a culture that was brought forward by Marcus Aurelius through his stoicism philosophy. The philosophy also stresses that the role of leaders is to emphasize the social welfare of their people despite the political upheavals that they might be undergoing.

Change in Western Leadership Tradition

Familial relations might not feel important in contemporary philosophical times. However, the Roman and the Western tradition acknowledge their leaders a lot based on their friendship and familial relationships. The main thing Romans considered necessary for their leaders was ancestry. However, they also regarded as other issues important. Family reputation was outstanding within the leadership philosophy as it advised the rates at which the emperor would interact with his republican senators (Kamtekar 203). A leader's friendship would be vital as it would encourage the standards of modesty of the leader and the main characters of the people that their leader associated around. It is essential to realize that the familial traditions held and discussed above were based on philosophical theories of the monarchy.

The era of Marcus Aurelias disenfranchised the idea of family and friendship relationships (Kamtekar 206). The Roman emperor Marcus Aurelia had to drop the idea of Monarchial philosophy. He introduced the perspective of leadership philosophy, where the emperor as a leadership position is owned by the people and not by the person. Marcus explained that an emperor has to be vigilant for the safety of everyone. To enhance public vigilance, Marcus, through Stoicism and his philosophy, introduced a new aspect where a good leader would be responsible through respecting public opinions. Freedom of speech for every public member and observing laws of the land is essential in the Stoicism philosophy than a monarchial philosophy where ancestry, friendship and, the familial relationship is considered important than leadership traits.

Marcus analyzed from his meditation on his stoicism philosophy that under a good leader, the citizens should have a feel of ethical leadership through peace, justice, morality, and social welfare uphold (Hughes 197). He went further to analyze that economic prosperity is dependent on the leadership philosophy chosen by the leader. The critical analysis from this philosophical idea Marcus Aurelius, therefore, changed the way the Western tradition viewed and elected their leaders. Until today the Western people are known to choose their leaders based on philosophical ideologies and, not familial or friendship criteria of leadership. From this paragraph, we get to understand Marcus Aurelia's role in changing the leadership tradition of the west through his philosophical ideas. Marcus introduced the aspect of justice, beneficence, and kindness in the leadership of western culture.

The Slavery of the Western Tradition

The next analysis his how Marcus Aurelia changed the tradition of slavery in western culture. Slavery has remained a sensitive topic among the people of the west. Not many people dare to even openly talk about it, especially since it raises issues like racism, white privileged and, other topics that surround. Marcus is one of the prominent persons to endorse Stoicism as a philosophical idea formed the introduction of slaves being treated with humanity. Stoicism, as a philosophical idea, borrowed mainly from the perspective of freedom that slaves required during that century. Marcus existed in a time where the implementation of slavery was at the highest. Slaves did not receive any freedom (Brummer, 38). They were subjected to years of slavery and, only granted independence at the time they were old enough not to work anymore. Marcus Aurelius, following his reflection and regards as a stoic, began to face the issue squarely and differently. Marcus began to view the issue of slavery as a spiritual issue rather than an issue of freedom. Since they considered the slavery issue as a religious concept, he did not want to negotiate for the privilege of slaves. In regards to the context, he decided to find a way in which slaves could be free, and he introduced the aspect of morality (Brummer 42).

Morality is an issue that is emphasized in stoicism philosophy. Marcus Aurelia recommended that slaves who behaved morally should be afforded freedom. A slave who acted in a morally upright manner was free. The introduction of the argument that Aurelius did not change anything in regards to slavery since as an emperor had the powers to is far-fetched. In his philosophical meditation, Marcus Aurelia stressed that in his principles and philosophy, he emphasizes self-control and simplicity, which are both against slavery. Slavery was a tradition issue, and stopping it would take a lot of effort than being an emperor. However, he contributed his part as a leader by awarding slaves' freedom through his philosophical idea that stressed on morality. The freedom through the righteousness that he accorded the slaves was the beginning of the end of slavery in the region. During his error, the slavery number was about 70 million, reduced to 7 million. Several years later, many people were bold enough to introduce the fight against slavery.


From the three issues analyzed above, it is clear how Marcus Aurelia transformed important Western tradition, which has been upheld up to this moment. Marcus Aurelia's belief in Stoicism contributed to politics, slavery, and leadership, as has been discussed in the analysis above. Aspects of Stoicism have also been analyzed adequately and how each of these aspects, which include morality, selflessness, and value-based actions, informed the decisions made by Marcus during his reign as a Roman empire.

Works Cited

Aurelius, Marcus. “Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.” E-artnow, 2018.

Brummer, Sylvia. "Marcus Aurelius: Living philosophy and the business of governing an Empire." Diss. Stellenbosch: Stellenbosch University, 2018.

Hughes, J. Donald. "The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius: Selections Annotated and Explained (annotation by Russell McNeil." Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture 2.2 (2008): 269-271.

Kamtekar, Rachana. “Marcus Aurelius.” (2010).

Sedgwick, Henry Dwight. "Marcus Aurelius; a Biography Told as Much as Maybe by Letters: Together with Some Account of the Stoic Religion and an Exposition of the Roman Government's Attempt to Suppress Christianity During Marcus's Reign." AMS Press, 2016.

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