Reputation: Pontius Pilate and Marcus Aurelius – Signet Ring

Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) by Antonio Ciseri. Source: Wikipedia

The signet ring signifies many things, one of which was authority in antiquity. It was also used to sign letters, decrees, wills and the likes, as a mark of authenticity. Times have changed and the signet ring now can be worn for many different reasons including simply as a fashion item; the significance of it however has not changed, because the true signet ring is not that physical item but our reputations. Two different persons can say the exact same words, but will be interpreted completely differently, simply because of their reputations. No wonder in his book The 48 Laws of Power, Robert Greene states: “So much depends on reputation, guard it with your life.”

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Pontius Pilate

When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.

Excerpt from

The Holy Bible (Matthew 27:24)

New King James Version

The historians who have written about Pontius Pilate, document that he was very corrupt and vile, abusing his authority even for fun. Due to his reputation for injustice, those who accused Jesus Christ falsely were certain, they would have their way with Pilate. When those in authority allow themselves to be pressurized into making bad decisions that are popular, they should not delude themselves like Pilate claiming innocence. Indeed if he had the reputation of being just, I doubt the accusers of Jesus, would have sought to kill him with legal backing. Pilate put up a show initially of wanting to act justly, but when he sensed danger, his signet ring, his true mark and identity showed. It is during times of adversity and danger, that true colors of people show, and their signet rings identified.

Gold Aureus of the Roman Emperor and Philosopher – Marcus Aurelius. Source: Wikipedia

Marcus Aurelius

One of the most successful and famous emperors of Rome. His reputation embodies the advice from Socrates:

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In book 1 of Meditations, Marcus Aurelius describes a long list of mentors, a total of 28, including the divine; stating how they shaped his character. No wonder he became “Marcus Aurelius”, a name synonymous with discipline, a necessary ingredient for greatness! Despite being emperor, he was reputed to have lived a very simple life. In the excerpt below, is part of his account.

FROM my grandfather Verus I learned good morals and the government of my temper.  From the reputation and remembrance of my father, modesty and a manly character. From my mother, piety and beneficence, and abstinence, not only from evil deeds, but even from evil thoughts; and further, simplicity in my way of living, far removed from the habits of the rich. From my great-grandfather, not to have frequented public schools, and to have had good teachers at home, and to know that on such things a man should spend liberally.

From my governor, to be neither of the green nor of the blue party at the games in the Circus, nor a partisan either of the Parmularius or the Scutarius at the gladiators’ fights; from him too I learned endurance of labour, and to want little, and to work with my own hands, and not to meddle with other people’s affairs, and not to be ready to listen to slander.

From Diognetus, not to busy myself about trifling things, and not to give credit to what was said by miracle-workers and jugglers about incantations and the driving away of demons and such things; and not to breed quails for fighting, nor to give myself up passionately to such things; and to endure freedom of speech; and to have become intimate with philosophy; and to have been a hearer, first of Bacchius, then of Tandasis and Marcianus; and to have written dialogues in my youth; and to have desired a plank bed and skin, and whatever else of the kind belongs to the Grecian discipline.

From Rusticus I received the impression that my character required improvement and discipline; and from him I learned not to be led astray to sophistic emulation, nor to writing on speculative matters, nor to delivering little hortatory orations, nor to showing myself off as a man who practises much discipline, or does benevolent acts in order to make a display; and to abstain from rhetoric, and poetry, and fine writing; and not to walk about in the house in my outdoor dress, nor to do other things of the kind; and to write my letters with simplicity, like the letter which Rusticus wrote from Sinuessa to my mother; and with respect to those who have offended me by words, or done me wrong, to be easily disposed to be pacified and reconciled, as soon as they have shown a readiness to be reconciled; and to read carefully, and not to be satisfied with a superficial understanding of a book; nor hastily to give my assent to those who talk overmuch; and I am indebted to him for being acquainted with the discourses of Epictetus, which he communicated to me out of his own collection.

From Sextus, a benevolent disposition, and the example of a family governed in a fatherly manner, and the idea of living conformably to nature; and gravity without affectation, and to look carefully after the interests of friends, and to tolerate ignorant persons, and those who form opinions without consideration: he had the power of readily accommodating himself to all, so that intercourse with him was more agreeable than any flattery; and at the same time he was most highly venerated by those who associated with him: and he had the faculty both of discovering and ordering, in an intelligent and methodical way, the principles necessary for life; and he never showed anger or any other passion, but was entirely free from passion, and also most.”

Excerpt from


Marcus Aurelius

Translated by George Long

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Dr Ande Elisha

The Amateur Philosopher