Social Media Claim

No evidence to link Marcus Aurelius to facts and truth quote

A Facebook post from October 10, 2019 shows a quote attributed to Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius.

The Statement

AAP FactCheck examined a Facebook post from October 10, 2019 by an Australian user as part of the public group, Conscious Quotes (Tolle, Rumi, Dalai Lama, Ram Dass, etc.), displaying a quote attributed to Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius.

The quote reads, “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth” and is accompanied by a sketch of two men debating the number of sticks.

The quote was posted to a public Facebook group called Conscious Quotes (Tolle, Rumi, Maharshi, Laozi, Dalai Lama, Ram Dass, etc.), which describes itself as “a spiritual playground for all to enjoy” and has more than 36,400 members.

The post has been shared more than 300 times and has generated more than 400 reactions and 20 comments.

The Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius is located on Rome's Capitoline Hill.

The Analysis

Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor and philosopher who ruled between 161 and 180 AD. He was one of the most prominent Stoic philosophers and is best known for the book Meditations, his personal writings and ideas on the Greek philosophy. Stoicism was a school of thought and ethics that helped one live a virtuous life by surmounting fears and false desires. The Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius looks over Rome from Capitoline Hill.

The quote attributed to Aurelius has been shared widely on the internet. The quote with a different picture was posted on Facebook in 2017 by a verified page for Marcus Aurelius. Australia’s news.com.au shared the quote in a 2011 Facebook post as did the Facebook page We Know Nothing.

The quote has also been used on Twitter by Inspirational Quotes, which has over 97,600 followers and featured on Instagram, notably through an account purporting to be actor Jim Carrey, where it amassed over 21,000 likes. The book reviewing website Goodreads also attributed the quote to Aurelius.

Two Classics academics told AAP FactCheck the quote did not appear in any of Marcus Aurelius’ known writings.

Australian National University Classical Studies lecturer Dr Chris Bishop said the quote was not said by Aurelius.

“The closest (writing to this) I can think of is the end of book four, section three of his Meditations where he contemplates the nature of existence and summarises: ‘The universe is change, and life is opinion’,” he said.

University of Tasmania Professor Dirk Baltzly said even linking the quote to Aurelius would be generous.

“This is not even a loose translation of any line in the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. It also conveys ideas that Marcus, as a Stoic philosopher, would positively reject,” he told AAP FactCheck.

Prof Baltzly explained the Stoics believed there was no shortage of facts or truths, contrary to the quote attributed to Aurelius.

“So if you must have a slogan or some bumper-sticker philosophy that Marcus Aurelius would approve of, it might be: “If you believe too much stuff on the internet, you’ll only have opinion - not knowledge. Learn some philosophy and start thinking critically!”

The Verdict

Based on this evidence, AAP FactCheck found the attribution of the quote to Marcus Aurelius to be false. The quote is not contained in Aurelius’s known writings, two academics told AAP FactCheck.

  • False - The primary claim of the content is factually inaccurate.

First published October 24, 2019, 17:01 AEST