From the Archive
The Inner Citadel: The philosophy of Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius
A detailed summary of Pierre Hadot’s classic book, which helped put Stoicism and ancient Greco-Roman philosophy back on the map
My Philosophy as Way of Life (PWOL) series of essays has now being going on since July 2018, and has produced 388 articles and counting. Naturally, people have a tendency to focus on the latest entries, but — if I may be forgiven for saying so — some of the early ones are worth reading as well. Which is why I am proposing this occasional series meant to highlight early PWOL entries grouped by interesting themes.
Today we are going to revisit a whopping nine essays I wrote about a highly impactful book authored by French scholar Pierre Hadot and entitled The Inner Citadel: the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. Despite the subtitle, the book is just as much about the famous emperor-philosopher as it is about the major Stoic teacher who influenced him: Epictetus. Hadot’s book has been instrumental in putting not only Stoicism, but practical Hellenistic philosophy, back on the map, and you will hardly gain a better understanding of either Marcus or Epictetus by reading anything else about them.
Here are brief extracts from the beginning of the nine essays to give you a taste of their content, with links to the full text:
1, Marcus Aurelius’ teachers: As Hadot points out, Marcus had a happy youth, but a tormented reign. He was born in Rome in 121 CE to a wealthy family that owned a number of brick factories and had significant political influence. He was noticed and protected by the emperor Hadrian, who instructed his chosen successor, Antoninus Pius, to adopt Marcus as well as Lucius Verus, and to groom them both for the throne. Marcus did become emperor in 161 CE, at the death of Antoninus, and he immediately appointed the far less capable Lucius as co-emperor (Lucius died in 169 CE, probably of the plague, leaving Marcus sole emperor). …
2, A first glimpse of the Meditations: Apparently, Marcus’ personal philosophical diary was known relatively soon after his death, as it is, for instance, mentioned by Themistius about two centuries after. But we have to…