From my governor (who had the care of the earlier part of my education) I learned not to engage in the disputes of the circus of the amphitheatre, the chariot races, or the combats of the gladiators.

He also taught me to endure hardships and fatigues; and to reduce the conveniences of life into a narrow compass; and to wait on myself on most occasions; not impertinently to interfere in other people’s affairs, nor hastily to listen to calumnies and slander.

Diognetus cautioned me against too eager a pursuit of trifles; particularly, not to busy myself in feeding quails.

And also [taught Rusticus] to read an author with care and attention, and not to content myself with a general superficial view of his subject, nor immediately to resign my opinion to every plausible declaimer.

Apollonius’ living example convinced me, that a man may be rigid in his principles, yet easy and affable in his manners, and free from any moroseness in delivering the precepts of his philosophy.

From the example of Sextus I formed a resolution of living according to Nature, of preserving an unaffected gravity in my deportment, and a careful attention to the expectations of my friends; to bear with the ignorance of the vulgar, and those that take up their opinions at random, without examination.

Fronto the orator informed me, how much envy, intrigue and dissimulation, usually prevailed under tyrannical governments, and observed, that those whom we call nobility are too often void of natural affection and the common feelings of humanity.

I am obliged to Alexander the Platonist, for the hint, ‘not often, nor ever, without a necessity, to complain, either in my letters or in the common intercourse with my friends, of my want of leisure; nor under a pretence of extraordinary embarrassment to decline or evade the common offices of friendship’.

Catulus admonished me not to slight the complaints of a friend, even though they should prove to be without foundation.

As for those things which conduce to the comfort and convenience of life, which fortune amply supplied, he made use of them, when at hand, without pride or ostentation; but, like a wise man, when at a distance, never regretted the want of them.

He was careful of his person, but neither foppish nor negligent; he had a proper regard to his health, but not too anxious in that particular, like a man that was too fond of life.

But to be able to bear affliction with fortitude, and the reverse without being too much elated, is an argument of consummate virtue and invincible resolution.

Extracts from the Meditations of Emperor Marcus Aurelius