The last of the "Good Emperors"
, Marcus Aurelius ruled the Roman Empire from 161-180 C.E. Much of his reign was spent fighting back the encroaching forces of barbarism, particularly at the German border. In his final days, in poor health, he decided to narrate his philosophical views to an army scribe
, a work that comes down to us as the Meditations
. A life long Stoic
, Marcus Aurelius was looking his own death in the face when he wrote:
"Don't forget how many doctors have died who once furrowed their brows over their patients ... how many warriors after slaying thousands of their enemies; how many dictators after exercising their power over life and death ... Then begin to count up those you have known personally, one by one: how this one buried his friend and was later mourned himself, buried by another--all in so short a time. Spend this brief moment walking with nature and greet your short journey's end with good grace, like the olive that falls to the ground when it is ripe, blessing the earth that receives it and grateful to the tree that bore it"*
* Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.