Afternoon gents, it’s Max from the Young Gentleman’s Guide here! In today’s article, we’re going to take a look at major historical figures that set standards of masculinity, stoicism, chivalry, or any combination of those things and talk about why young gentlemen everywhere should look up to them. There’s certainly no shortage of such figures throughout history, but since we only have so much time, I’ll just keep it limited to four (4). There’s not really much else that needs to be said as far as the intro is concerned, so let’s go ahead and get started!
1. Marcus Aurelius
Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121-180 A.D.) assumed the Roman Emperorship from 161 A.D. to his death in 180. He was the last of the emperors in the line known as the Five Good Emperors, and is best known for one thing: his influence in the realm of stoicism. His philosophy on stoicism and being a good man can mostly be found in a collection of works that he wrote known as The Meditations, in which he includes some of his own personal anecdotes as well as the core tenets of his philosophy. Here are some quotations from The Meditations that will hopefully give you an idea of said philosophy.
“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
“When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love …”Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
“The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury.”Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
“Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.”Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
“The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are.”Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
2. President George Washington
He’s more than just our nation’s first president and the face of the one dollar bill. George Washington (1732-1799) was also one of the most decorated generals and brilliant military minds that the U.S. has ever known. Working with untrained and underfed troops on top of facing the globally dominant superpower of the British Royal Army, General Washington had a manner of speaking and leading that was able to keep his troops motivated and fighting on through the worst of conditions. While the Continental Army under Washington’s command may have lost more battles than they won, it was Washington’s inspiration and ability to keep his troops motivated and determined that ultimately won them the war. Nowhere is this more apparent than the Army’s encampment at Valley Forge. Facing a harsh winter, dwindling supplies and ammunition, and a petri dish of various diseases, it was looking more and more like the Continental Army was not going to make it through to the next year. However, through sheer willpower and determination that General Washington helped foster, the Army troops were able to make it through a tough winter and more tightly unify the rag-tag army into a toughened military force that could really pack a punch. After such a successful tenure as a general and being unanimously elected to be our nation’s first president, he carried over that inspiration and sense of determination into his presidency and helped transform the U.S. into a truly powerful nation.
3. President Theodore Roosevelt
Yet another U.S. president to make it on this list, I’ve written about Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) before in a now-deleted article where I say that he was “the personification of class and the perfect gentleman”, and he was certainly all that. Coming from a troubled and asthmatic childhood, he strove to overcome that with nothing but a dedicated exercise regimen and some elbow grease. Lo and behold, he was able to do just that. As an adult, he went on to have one of the most successful military and political lives in U.S. history. After leading the Rough Riders, the nickname for the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry, through successful campaign in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, he went on to serve as the Governor of New York for two (2) years before ascending to the Vice Presidency in 1901. He then went on to serve as the 26th U.S. President after the assassination of President McKinley. Roosevelt went on to be a strong, optimistic, and altruistic leader. He went on to establish the National Park Service, leading to the Boy Scouts becoming the largest youth organization in America at the time. He also oversaw the construction of the Panama Canal, which opened up a multitude of new trade routes for the U.S. as well as the rest of the world. On top of all of this, he was also just what many would call a man’s man. Even after his presidency, he continued pursuing his hobbies of hunting, trailblazing, mountain climbing, and anything similar. A military leader, a President, an outdoorsman, and a martial artist. If that’s not the epitome of a true gentleman, I don’t know what is.
4. Saint Maximilian Kolbe
St. Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941) was born in Poland and had a strong religious inclination as a child after claiming to have visions of the Virgin Mary. Later on, as an adult, he went on to become a priest, Franciscan friar, and journalist. During the Nazis’ occupation of Poland in 1939, he remained at the Polish monastery, Niepokalanów, where he continuously published op-eds speaking out against Hitler’s regime. In 1941, this life of anti-Nazi journalism caught up with him, and he was arrested by Nazi soldiers and sent to Auschwitz. Even while facing terrible conditions in the camp, he continued to serve as a priest, offering solace and comfort through the grace of God to his fellow prisoners. Finally, in July 1941, when ten (10) prisoners were selected for punishment by starvation in an underground bunker, Kolbe overheard one them, Franciszek Gajowniczek, yell out “My wife! My children!” When he heard this, Kolbe, without hesitation, volunteered to take Gajowniczek’s place just so he could have the chance to escape and see his family again. With such an act of bravery, stoicism, and honor, Maximilian Kolbe was canonized as saint by Pope Paul VI in 1982. Being able to so willingly give his own life just so a complete stranger can see his family again is an act that any gentleman should be willing to look up to.
So there it is! I hope you gents enjoyed reading this article and that it gave you some inspiration. If you’re interested, I would definitely recommend looking into more of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations because that’s basically the gentleman’s guide to stoicism that I only wish I could write. Of course, all these men and many more were perfect models of masculinity that many men today can only dream of reaching. In any case, I hope you enjoyed reading today’s post. Please be sure to share the post, follow the blog, and follow The Young Gentleman’s Guide on Facebook and Instagram. And on that note, this is Max from The Young Gentleman’s Guide, and I’ll see you next time!