Updated 28-Jun-2024

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius was the Emperor of Rome from 161 to 180 CE, and is considered the last of the Five Good Emperors. He was a Stoic Philosopher and his work The Meditations (literally things to one's self) is a set of private notes and thoughts. It is considered to be one of the greatest works of stoic philosophy.


Confucius was a legendary philosopher and governmental theorist contemporaneous with Sun Tzu, active in the sixth and fifth centries, BCE. While mostly ineffective during his own lifetime, his approach to leadership as one of highly conservative morality and study of the classics deeply influenced centuries of bureaucratic rule in various regimes. The Analects, literally Edited Conversations is a collection of sayings and conversations attributed to Confucius but likely not written during his lifetime.

Kautilya (Chanakya)

Kautilya also called Chanakya was the teacher and advisor of Chandragupta Maurya, founder of the Maurya Empire, the largest empire to rule across most of modern day India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. Founded in 322 BCE, it reached its peak under Ashoka in 232 BCE. The Arthashastra is Chanakya's masterwork in military and political strategy and tactics. It was influential until the 12th century, and only resurfaced again in 1905.

Niccolo Machiavelli

Niccolo Machiavelli was an Italian diplomat and philosopher during the Renaissance, and a senior official in the Florentine Republic. After being exiled from politics he wrote The Prince in 1513.

Miyamoto Musashi

Miyamoto Musashi was a Japanese swordsman, philosopher and ronin (masterless samurai). Musashi died of what is believed to be thoracic cancer, in 1645 -- undefeated, having fought 61 duels. His work The Book of Five Rings is a treatise on his unique style of swordsmanship, strategy, and tactics.

Yamamoto Tsunetomo

Yamamoto Tsunetomo was a samurai for thirty years under Nabeshima Mitsushige, his father, and grandfather. Because Mitsushige disliked the practice, Tsunetomo did not follow his master in death. Later he narrated his thoughts and stories to Tashiro Tsuramoto who compiled and published the work Hagakure (literally hidden leaves or in the shadow of leaves), in 1716. Hagakure is also known as The Book of the Samurai and The Way of the Samurai. Aphorisms from the book were popularized in the 1999 Jim Jaramusch film Ghost Dog starring Forest Whitaker.

Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu was a legendary general who was active beginning in the late 6th century BCE. His work The Art of War is studied today in military academies for its profound grasp of strategic and tactical thinking. While only a thin volume of several dozen pages, it is generally packaged with extensive commentary.