"Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones."
— Marcus Aurelius, a Roman Emperor from 161 to 180. He ruled with Lucius Verus as co-emperor from 161 until Verus’ death in 169. He was the last of the “Five Good Emperors”, and is also considered one of the most important Stoic philosophers. During his reign, the empire defeated a revitalized Parthian Empire; Aurelius’ general Avidius Cassius sacked the capital Ctesiphon in 164. Aurelius fought the Marcomanni, Quadi, and Sarmatians with success during the Marcomannic Wars, but the threat of the Germanic tribes began to represent a troubling reality for the empire. A revolt in the east led by Avidius Cassius failed to gain momentum and was suppressed immediately. Marcus Aurelius’ work Meditations, written in Greek while on campaign between 170 and 180, is still revered as a literary monument to a philosophy of service and duty, describing how to find and preserve equanimity in the midst of conflict by following nature as a source of guidance and inspiration. The meditations serve as an example of how Aurelius approached the Platonic ideal of a philosopher-king and how he symbolized much of what was best about Roman civilization.