Roman Empire


PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 May, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 May, 2004, 12:00am


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by Marcus Aurelius

Phoenix $80

In probably the first self-help book ever written, the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius - who reigned from 161AD to 180AD - jotted down his blend of pantheist and stoic beliefs in a series of notes on how to live. This new translation by Gregory Hays shows that being a second-century ruler wasn't much different from being a 21st-century executive. There's advice on matters such as how to get out of bed when you'd rather sleep on. Aurelius advocates a harsh form of personal atonement by suggesting one 'begin the morning by saying to thyself, I shall meet with the busy-body, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial'. His philosophy can be summed up as: be 'neither the tyrant nor the slave of any man'. He doesn't waste words or wallow in the self-obsession we normally see in the genre he arguably created.