Review: How To Think Like A Roman Emperor — Donald Robertson

Genre: Non-Fiction / Philosophy / Psychology
Publisher: MacMillan Audio / Audible
ISBN: 9781250621436
Edition: Audiobook
Length: 8h 30m
Release Date: 02-04-2019

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.

How To THink Like a Roman Emperor

When I was a young boy I’d often look to the stars and how much I’d love to be among them, exploring our galaxy and marvelling at the grandness of it all. These days when I do, I still get that feeling of awe, but I also realise just how insignificant we all are in the grand scheme of things. We are only here for a short period of time, not even a speck, but during that time we have to find our way in life and we are inevitably led to question ourselves. One of the most important questions being: What is the meaning of life? When I was younger, I never really bothered much with religion, or philosophy, but as I grew older there was one direction I’d look to for guidance and that is the Stoic school of philosophy. I started this journey reading one of the most beloved books from perhaps the most widely known Stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius and his Meditations. One of the most amazing things about the books of the Stoics is that they’re still relevant to this day, because those dudes really knew their stuff, as it turns out. When I ran into this book on Audible I decided to buy it and see if there was anything new under the sun and as it turned out, there was.

One of the most amazing things about this book is that it’s part history lesson, part philosophy and part practical. With the latter I mean that Donald Robertson manages to convert the Stoic ideas into practical help in the modern day and age. One of the most notable things is that many of the Stoic ideas are used in modern psychotherapy, known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (or C.B.T.) and that many of their ideas on how to live life and especially how to deal with our emotions and hardships, can really make you one tough cookie. This is my main reason for calling myself a Modern Day Stoic. Adopting all these ideas and applying them to my own life has allowed me to deal with a lot of problems without letting my emotions guide me, but taking on a much more reserved stance and allowing me to tackle my problems by remaining calm and reserved. This book manages to explain plainly how to do this yourself. I also learned quite a few new things myself from this book and that was something I hadn’t expected when I started listening to it.

Every chapter starts off with a lesson in history, in which we learn a lot about the life of Marcus Aurelius. He most certainly didn’t have the easiest life and had to fight on several fronts throughout his life. Not only actual battlefronts, but also mental ones. The Meditations don’t convey much about the actual history behind its story and are much more about how Marcus dealt with his hardships and contains a motherlode of useful advice, which he wrote mostly to himself, hence the title, but they are widely applicable to all of our lives, even to this day!

You don’t need to have read the Meditations in order to enjoy this book, in fact, it might even be best to read this book first, so you already have some prior knowledge about Marcus Aurelius before you dive into his actual work. I am currently re-reading Meditations right after I finished this book and thus far I’ve found an even greater appreciation of it, after having read this book.

Whether you’re new to Stoic philosophy, or already know a thing or two, I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s absolutely vital reading if you’re looking for a good self-help book. If there’s one thing I’d have to comment on regarding this book, it’s that sometimes the author’s reading voice differed all of a sudden, as if he had taken a break and was starting a new session. But that’s really nitpicking on my part. If you want to start a journey down the path of Stoic wisdom, this is where you should start.

Cover: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Writing style: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Content: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Originality: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Reading Voice: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Overall: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Happy Reading!

Jeffrey

3 replies »

  1. Jeffrey, What I like from what you said about “How To Think Like A Roman Emperor,” by Donald Robertson, is that “Donald Robertson manages to convert the Stoic ideas into practical help in the modern day.” And it sounds like good advice to read Robertson’s book before reading Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations.” Phil

    Liked by 1 person

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