The most important lesson we can learn from Junius Rusticus is to contribute to the world around us to welcome criticism and learn from it and to not hide away from it.

Bust of Junius Rusticus

JUNIUS RUSTICUS

A man named Junius Rusticus who lived in the 2nd century was a philosopher and a very important Stoic. His grandfather was also a Stoic and Rusticus must have heard a lot of stories about those famous philosophers. He must have been really into it because he felt the same sense of duty as his grandfather and ended up becoming a soldier, then a general, and eventually a consul under Emperor Hadrian.

Being a consul was a big deal, but Rusticus went above and beyond. In 138 AD, Hadrian wanted to make a 17-year-old named Marcus Aurelius the emperor since he didn’t have any heirs. And guess who Hadrian chose as one of Marcus’ tutors? Yes, Rusticus. As it turns out, Rusticus was a pretty great teacher.

Around the same time, Rusticus might have been going to lectures by a guy named Epictetus. Epictetus’ student, Arrian, was also a consul in Hadrian’s court. So, Rusticus somehow got his hands on a copy of Epictetus’ teachings. In one of Marcus Aurelius’ books, he talks about what he learned from Rusticus. Rusticus taught him to train and discipline his character, not get distracted by rhetoric or writing fancy stuff, and to be a good reader and listener.

Marcus Aurelius was made emperor in 161 AD and he immediately hired Rusticus as his advisor. Then, in 162 AD, Rusticus became a consul and the mayor of Rome. He was in charge of the police, legal stuff, public works, and making sure the city had enough food. It was a big responsibility, but Rusticus did a great job.

In 165 AD, Rusticus had to deal with a court case. A philosopher named Crescens accused a Christian philosopher named Justin and his students of not believing in the Roman gods. Rusticus’ job was to keep the peace, so he asked Justin to just go along with it and acknowledge the gods. But Justin refused to compromise his beliefs and was sentenced to death. It was a bad mark on Rusticus’ record. He retired in 168 AD and died in 170 AD.

So, what can we learn from Rusticus? Well, his grandfather was killed for being involved in public affairs, so Rusticus was a bit scared to follow in his footsteps. He wanted to just be a philosopher and stay out of trouble. But he realized that he had to contribute to the world and not just hide in his books. Seneca, another Stoic philosopher, said that Stoicism is all about being involved in public life, even if it’s uncomfortable. So, Rusticus chose to be active and make a difference.

Rusticus was also a great mentor to Marcus Aurelius. Marcus learned to welcome criticism and tough feedback from Rusticus, even though it wasn’t always easy. He knew that the truth was more important than his own ego. And that’s why Marcus turned out to be a great leader, while others like Nero went down a bad path. Marcus respected and listened to Rusticus, even though he had all the power as emperor.

So, the lessons we can take from Rusticus are to contribute to the world and not just hide away, and to welcome criticism and learn from it.

THE HALL OF STOIC PHILOSOPHERS

Junius Rusticus

Seneca

Marcus Aurelius

Epictetus

Statue of Thrasea Paetus

Thrasea Paetus

Lucius Annaeus

Diotimus

Publius Rutilius Rufus

Porcia of Cato

Cicero

Posidonius

Panaetius of Rhodes