Liberal Arts Blog — Elizabeth II and Three Stoics: Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Seneca
Liberal Arts Blog — Tuesday is the Joy of Literature, Language, Religion, and Culture Day
Today’s Topic: Elizabeth II and Three Stoics: Marcus Aurelius (121–180 AD), Epictetus (50–135AD), Seneca (4BC-65AD)
Perhaps Elizabeth II is best remembered as an incarnation of the spirit of the London Blitz of 1940, the spirit captured in the “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster from the Ministry of Information. Words come to mind like endurance, perseverance, equanimity. Then there is the phrase “keep a stiff upper lip” and there is the poem “If.” But before Kipling there were the Stoics. In honor of this tradition, a few quotes from perhaps the three greatest Stoics. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
MARCUS AURELIUS (121–180 AD), Emperor (161–180)
1. “You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
2. “Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.”
3. “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”
NB: Marcus Aurelius was the last of the “Five Good Emperors” of the Pax Romana period (27 BC to 190 AD) which began with the reign of Augustus. The painting of the death of Marcus Aurelius is by Eugene Delacroix (1798–1863)
EPICTETUS (50–135 AD) — often depicted with a crutch but unclear whether he was lame from birth or the victim of a cruel master
1. “If anyone tells you that a certain person speaks ill of you, do not make excuses about what is said of you but answer, “He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would not have mentioned these alone.”
2. “Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.”
3. “Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it.”
NB: Born a slave in what is now Turkey but was then part of Greece, Epictetus was freed at roughly age 18. He Lived and taught in Rome until all philosophers were banned by Emperor Domitian in 93 AD. Thereafter he set up a school of philosophy in Nicopolis in northwestern Greece.
SENECA (4BC — 65AD) philosopher and playwright (Medea, Thyestes, Phaedra)
1. “If a man knows not to which port he sails, no wind is favorable.”
2. “Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.”
3. “All cruelty springs from weakness.”
NB: Like Socrates, Seneca was forced to commit suicide. Socrates by a court. Seneca by Emperor Nero. The death of Epictetus is depicted in the painting above by the 19th century Spanish painter, Manuel Dominguez Sanchez.
QUOTE OF THE MONTH:
“The single biggest challenge in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” (William H. Whyte, author of The Organization Man” (1856)
#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, 11/17/20
Here is a link to the last four years of posts organized by theme: (including the book on foreign policy)
Please share the coolest thing you learned this week related to words, language, literature, religion, culture. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in your life related to Words, Language, Literature (eg. quotes, poetry, vocabulary) that you have not yet shared.
This is your chance to make someone else’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.