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Such is the system which underlies the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. Some knowledge of it is necessary to the right understanding of the book, but for us the chief interest lies elsewhere. We do not come to Marcus Aurelius for a treatise on Stoicism. He is no head of a school to lay down a body of doctrine for students; he does not even contemplate that others should read what he writes.
His philosophy is not an eager intellectual inquiry, but more what we should call religious feeling. The uncompromising stiffness of Zeno or Chrysippus is softened and transformed by passing through a nature reverent and tolerant, gentle and free from guile; the grim resignation which made life possible to the Stoic sage becomes in him almost a mood of aspiration. His book records the innermost thoughts of his heart, set down to ease it, with such moral maxims and reflections as may help him to bear the burden of duty and the countless annoyances of a busy life. It is instructive to compare the Meditations with another famous book, the Imitation of Christ. There is the same ideal of self-control in both. It should be a man's task, says the Imitation, 'to overcome himself, and every day to be stronger than himself.' 'In withstanding of the passions standeth very peace of heart.' 'Let us set the axe to the root, that we being purged of our passions may have a peaceable mind.' To this end there must be continual self-examination. 'If thou may not continually gather thyself together, namely sometimes do it, at least once a day, the morning or the evening. In the morning purpose, in the evening discuss the manner, what thou hast been this day, in word, work, and thought.' But while the Roman's temper is a modest self-reliance, the Christian aims at a more passive mood, humbleness and meekness, and reliance on the presence and personal friendship of God. The Roman scrutinises his faults with severity, but without the self-contempt which makes the Christian 'vile in his own sight.'
The Christian, like the Roman, bids 'study to withdraw thine heart from the love of things visible'; but it is not the busy life of duty he has in mind so much as the contempt of all worldly things, and the 'cutting away of all lower delectations.' Both rate men's praise or blame at their real worthlessness; 'Let not thy peace,' says the Christian, 'be in the mouths of men.' But it is to God's censure the Christian appeals, the Roman to his own soul. The petty annoyances of injustice or unkindness are looked on by each with the same magnanimity. 'Why doth a little thing said or done against thee make thee sorry? It is no new thing; it is not the first, nor shall it be the last, if thou live long. At best suffer patiently, if thou canst not suffer joyously.' The Christian should sorrow more for other men's malice than for our own wrongs; but the Roman is inclined to wash his hands of the offender. 'Study to be patient in suffering and bearing other men's defaults and all manner infirmities,' says the Christian; but the Roman would never have thought to add, 'If all men were perfect, what had we then to suffer of other men for God?' The virtue of suffering in itself is an idea which does not meet us in the Meditations. Both alike realise that man is one of a great community. 'No man is sufficient to himself,' says the Christian; 'we must bear together, help together, comfort together.' But while he sees a chief importance in zeal, in exalted emotion that is, and avoidance of lukewarmness, the Roman thought mainly of the duty to be done as well as might be, and less of the feeling which should go with the doing of it. To the saint as to the emperor, the world is a poor thing at best. 'Verily it is a misery to live upon the earth,' says the Christian; few and evil are the days of man's life, which passeth away suddenly as a shadow.
                                                                                   ***
  "MARCUS AURELIUS ANTONINUS" was born on April 26, A.D. 1
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Meditations - Murat Ukray

978-615-5564-253

About Author

Marcus Aurelius (26 April 121 AD – 17 March 180 AD) was a Roman Emperor from 161 to 180. He ruled with Lucius Verus as co-emperor from 161 until Verus' death in 169. He was the last of the Five Good Emperors, and is also considered one of the most important Stoic philosophers.

During his reign, the Empire defeated a revitalized Parthian Empire in the East; Aurelius' general Avidius Cassius sacked the capital Ctesiphon in 164. In central Europe, Aurelius fought the Marcomanni, Quadi, and Sarmatians with success during the Marcomannic Wars, with the threat of the Germanic tribes beginning to represent a troubling reality for the Empire. A revolt in the East led by Avidius Cassius failed to gain momentum and was suppressed immediately.

Marcus Aurelius' Stoic tome Meditations, written in Greek while on campaign between 170 and 180, is still revered as a literary monument to a philosophy of service and duty, describing how to find and preserve equanimity in the midst of conflict by following nature as a source of guidance and inspiration.

* * * * *

Preface (About the Book)

MARCUS AURELIUS ANTONINUS was born on April 26, A.D. 121. His real name was M. Annius Verus, and he was sprung of a noble family which claimed descent from Numa, second King of Rome. Thus the most religious of emperors came of the blood of the most pious of early kings. His father, Annius Verus, had held high office in Rome, and his grandfather, of the same name, had been thrice Consul. Both his parents died young, but Marcus held them in loving remembrance. On his father's death Marcus was adopted by his grandfather, the consular Annius Verus, and there was deep love between these two. On the very first page of his book Marcus gratefully declares how of his grandfather he had learned to be gentle and meek, and to refrain from all anger and passion. The Emperor Hadrian divined the fine character of the lad, whom he used to call not Verus but Verissimus, more Truthful than his own name. He advanced Marcus to equestrian rank when six years of age, and at the age of eight made him a member of the ancient Salian priesthood. The boy's aunt, Annia Galeria Faustina, was married to Antoninus Pius, afterwards emperor. Hence it came about that Antoninus, having no son, adopted Marcus, changing his name to that which he is known by, and betrothed him to his daughter Faustina. His education was conducted with all care. The ablest teachers were engaged for him, and he was trained in the strict doctrine of the Stoic philosophy, which was his great delight. He was taught to dress plainly and to live simply, to avoid all softness and luxury. His body was trained to hardihood by wrestling, hunting, and outdoor games; and though his constitution was weak, he showed great personal courage to encounter the fiercest boars. At the same time he was kept from the extravagancies of his day. The great excitement in Rome was the strife of the Factions, as they were called, in the circus. The racing drivers used to adopt one of four colours—red, blue, white, or green—and their partisans showed an eagerness in supporting them which nothing could surpass. Riot and corruption went in the train of the racing chariots; and from all these things Marcus held severely aloof.

On one journey his wife, Faustina, died. At his return the emperor celebrated a triumph (176). Immediately afterwards he repaired to Germany, and took up once more the burden of war. His operations were followed by complete success; but the troubles of late years had been too much for his constitution, at no time robust, and on March 17, 180, he died in Pannonia.

The good emperor was not spared domestic troubles. Faustina had borne him several children, of whom he was passionately fond. Their innocent faces may still be seen in many a sculpture gallery, recalling with odd effect the dreamy countenance of their father. But they died one by one, and when Marcus came to his own end only one of his sons still lived—the weak and worthless Commodus. On his father's death Commodus, who succeeded him, undid the work of many campaigns by a hasty and unwise peace; and his reign of twelve years proved him to be a ferocious and bloodthirsty tyrant. Scandal has made free with the name of Faustina herself, who is accused not only of unfaithfulness, but of intriguing with Cassius and egging him on to his fatal rebellion, it must be admitted that these charges rest on no sure evidence; and the emperor, at all events, loved her dearly, nor ever felt the slightest qualm of suspicion.

Such is the system which underlies the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. Some knowledge of it is necessary to the right understanding of the book, but for us the chief interest lies elsewhere. We do not come to Marcus Aurelius for a treatise on Stoicism. He is no head of a school to lay down a body of doctrine for students; he does not even contemplate that others should read what he writes. His philosophy is not an eager intellectual inquiry, but more what we should call religious feeling. The uncompromising stiffness of Zeno or Chrysippus is softened and transformed by passing through a nature reverent and tolerant, gentle and free from guile; the grim resignation which made life possible to the Stoic sage becomes in him almost a mood of aspiration. His book records the innermost thoughts of his heart, set down to ease it, with such moral maxims and reflections as may help him to bear the burden of duty and the countless annoyances of a busy life.

Table of Contents

Meditations (Illustrated)

About Author

Preface (About the Book)

Table of Contents

Introduction

Chapter 1: His First Book

Chapter 2: The Second Book

Chapter 3: The Third Book

Chapter 4: The Fourth Book

Chapter 5: The Fifth Book

Chapter 6: The Sixth Book

Chapter 7: The Seventh Book

Chapter 8: The Eighth Book

Chapter 9: The Ninth Book

Chapter 10: The Tenth Book

Chapter 11: The Eleventh Book

Chapter 12: The Twelfth Book

Appendix

Notes

Glossary

Meditations

[MARCUS AURELIUS ANTONINUS THE ROMAN EMPEROR]

{Illustrated}

by

MARCUS AURELIUS

With Illustrations by Murat Ukray {e-Kitap Projesi}

Introduction

MARCUS AURELIUS ANTONINUS was born on April 26, A.D. 121. His real name was M. Annius Verus, and he was sprung of a noble family which claimed descent from Numa, second King of Rome. Thus the most religious of emperors came of the blood of the most pious of early kings. His father, Annius Verus, had held high office in Rome, and his grandfather, of the same name, had been thrice Consul. Both his parents died young, but Marcus held them in loving remembrance. On his father's death Marcus was adopted by his grandfather, the consular Annius Verus, and there was deep love between these two. On the very first page of his book Marcus gratefully declares how of his grandfather he had learned to be gentle and meek, and to refrain from all anger and passion. The Emperor Hadrian divined the fine character of the lad, whom he used to call not Verus but Verissimus, more Truthful than his own name. He advanced Marcus to equestrian rank when six years of age, and at the age of eight made him a member of the ancient Salian priesthood. The boy's aunt, Annia Galeria Faustina, was married to Antoninus Pius, afterwards emperor. Hence it came about that Antoninus, having no son, adopted Marcus, changing his name to that which he is known by, and betrothed him to his daughter Faustina. His education was conducted with all care. The ablest teachers were engaged for him, and he was trained in the strict doctrine of the Stoic philosophy, which was his great delight. He was taught to dress plainly and to live simply, to avoid all softness and luxury. His body was trained to hardihood by wrestling, hunting, and outdoor games; and though his constitution was weak, he showed great personal courage to encounter the fiercest boars. At the same time he was kept from the extravagancies of his day. The great excitement in Rome was the strife of the Factions, as they were called, in the circus. The racing drivers used to adopt one of four colours—red, blue, white, or green—and their partisans showed an eagerness in supporting them which nothing could surpass. Riot and corruption went in the train of the racing chariots; and from all these things Marcus held severely aloof.

In 140 Marcus was raised to the consulship, and in 145 his betrothal was consummated by marriage. Two years later Faustina brought him a daughter; and soon after the tribunate and other imperial honours were conferred upon him.

Antoninus Pius died in 161, and Marcus assumed the imperial state. He at once associated with himself L. Ceionius Commodus, whom Antoninus had adopted as a younger son at the same time with Marcus, giving him the name of Lucius Aurelius Verus. Henceforth the two are colleagues in the empire, the junior being trained as it were to succeed. No sooner was Marcus settled upon the throne than wars broke out on all sides. In the east, Vologeses III. of Parthia began a long-meditated revolt by destroying a whole Roman Legion and invading Syria (162). Verus was sent off in hot haste to quell this rising; and he fulfilled his trust by plunging into drunkenness and debauchery, while the war was left to his officers. Soon after Marcus had to face a more serious danger at home in the coalition of several powerful tribes on the northern frontier. Chief among those were the Marcomanni or Marchmen, the Quadi (mentioned in this book), the Sarmatians, the Catti, the Jazyges. In Rome itself there was pestilence and starvation, the one brought from the east by Verus's legions, the other caused by floods which had destroyed vast quantities of grain. After all had been done possible to allay famine and to supply pressing needs—Marcus being forced even to sell the imperial jewels to find money—both emperors set forth to a struggle which was to continue more or less during the rest of Marcus's reign. During these wars, in 169, Verus died. We have no means of following the campaigns in detail; but thus much is certain, that in the end the Romans succeeded in crushing the barbarian tribes, and effecting a settlement which made the empire more secure. Marcus was himself commander-in-chief, and victory was due no less to his own ability than to his wisdom in choice of lieutenants, shown conspicuously in the case of Pertinax. There were several important battles fought in these campaigns; and one of them has become celebrated for the legend of the Thundering Legion. In a battle against the Quadi in 174, the day seemed to be going in favour of the foe, when on a sudden arose a great storm of thunder and rain the lightning struck the barbarians with terror, and they turned to rout. In later days this storm was said to have been sent in answer to the prayers of a legion which contained many Christians, and the name Thundering Legion should be given to it on this account. The title of Thundering Legion is known at an earlier date, so this part of the story at least cannot be true; but the aid of the storm is acknowledged by one of the scenes carved on Antonine's Column at Rome, which commemorates these wars.

The settlement made after these troubles might have been more satisfactory but for an unexpected rising in the east. Avidius Cassius, an able captain who had won renown in the Parthian wars, was at this time chief governor of the eastern provinces. By whatever means induced, he had conceived the project of proclaiming himself emperor as soon as Marcus, who was then in feeble health, should die; and a report having been conveyed to him that Marcus was dead, Cassius did as he had planned. Marcus, on hearing the news, immediately patched up a peace and returned home to meet this new peril. The emperors great grief was that he must needs engage in the horrors of civil strife. He praised the qualities of Cassius, and expressed a heartfelt wish that Cassius might not be driven to do himself a hurt before he should have the opportunity to grant a free pardon. But before he could come to the east news had come to Cassius that the emperor still lived; his followers fell away from him, and he was assassinated. Marcus now went to the east, and while there the murderers brought the head of Cassius to him; but the emperor indignantly refused their gift, nor would he admit the men to his presence.

On this journey his wife, Faustina, died. At his return the emperor celebrated a triumph (176). Immediately afterwards he repaired to Germany, and took up once more the burden of war. His operations were followed by complete success; but the troubles of late years had been too much for his constitution, at no time robust, and on March 17, 180, he died in Pannonia.

The good emperor was not spared domestic troubles. Faustina had borne him several children, of whom he was passionately fond. Their innocent faces may still be seen in many a sculpture gallery, recalling with odd effect the dreamy countenance of their father. But they died one by one, and when Marcus came to his own end only one of his sons still lived—the weak and worthless Commodus. On his father's death Commodus, who succeeded him, undid the work of many campaigns by a hasty and unwise peace; and his reign of twelve years proved him to be a ferocious and bloodthirsty tyrant. Scandal has made free with the name of Faustina herself, who is accused not only of unfaithfulness, but of intriguing with Cassius and egging him on to his fatal rebellion, it must be admitted that these charges rest on no sure evidence; and the emperor, at all events, loved her dearly, nor ever felt the slightest qualm of suspicion.

As a soldier we have seen that Marcus was both capable and successful; as an administrator he was prudent and conscientious. Although steeped in the teachings of philosophy, he did not attempt to remodel the world on any preconceived plan. He trod the path beaten by his predecessors, seeking only to do his duty as well as he could, and to keep out corruption. He did some unwise things, it is true. To create a compeer in empire, as he did with Verus, was a dangerous innovation which could only succeed if one of the two effaced himself; and under Diocletian this very precedent caused the Roman Empire to split into halves. He erred in his civil administration by too much centralising. But the strong point of his reign was the administration of justice. Marcus sought by-laws to protect the weak, to make the lot of the slaves less hard, to stand in place of father to the fatherless. Charitable foundations were endowed for rearing and educating poor children. The provinces were protected against oppression, and public help was given to cities or districts which might be visited by calamity. The great blot on his name, and one hard indeed to explain, is his treatment of the Christians. In his reign Justin at Rome became a martyr to his faith, and Polycarp at Smyrna, and we know of many outbreaks of fanaticism in the provinces which caused the death of the faithful. It is no excuse to plead that he knew nothing about the atrocities done in his name: it was his duty to know, and if he did not he would have been the first to confess that he had failed in his duty. But from his own tone in speaking of the Christians it is clear he knew them only from calumny; and we hear of no measures taken even to secure that they should have a fair hearing. In this respect Trajan was better than he.

To a thoughtful mind such a religion as that of Rome would give small satisfaction. Its legends were often childish or impossible; its teaching had little to do with morality. The Roman religion was in fact of the nature of a bargain: men paid certain sacrifices and rites, and the gods granted their favour, irrespective of right or wrong. In this case all devout souls were thrown back upon philosophy, as they had been, though to a less extent, in Greece. There were under the early empire two rival schools which practically divided the field between them, Stoicism and Epicureanism. The ideal set before each was nominally much the same. The Stoics aspired to the repression of all emotion, and the Epicureans to freedom from all disturbance; yet in the upshot the one has become a synonym of stubborn endurance, the other for unbridled licence. With Epicureanism we have nothing to do now; but it will be worth while to sketch the history and tenets of the Stoic sect. Zeno, the founder of Stoicism, was born in Cyprus at some date unknown, but his life may be said roughly to be between the years 350 and 250 B.C. Cyprus has been from time immemorial a meeting-place of the East and West, and although we cannot grant any importance to a possible strain of Phoenician blood in him (for the Phoenicians were no philosophers), yet it is quite likely that through Asia Minor he may have come in touch with the Far East. He studied under the cynic Crates, but he did not neglect other philosophical systems. After many years' study he opened his own school in a colonnade in Athens called the Painted Porch, or Stoa, which gave the Stoics their name. Next to Zeno, the School of the Porch owes most to Chrysippus (280—207 b.c.), who organised Stoicism into a system. Of him it was said, 'But for Chrysippus, there had been no Porch.'

The Stoics regarded speculation as a means to an end and that end was, as Zeno put it, to live consistently omologonuenws zhn or as it was later explained, to live in conformity with nature. This conforming of the life to nature oralogoumenwz th fusei zhn. was the Stoic idea of Virtue.

This dictum might easily be taken to mean that virtue consists in yielding to each natural impulse; but that was very far from the Stoic meaning. In order to live in accord with nature, it is necessary to know what nature is; and to this end a threefold division of philosophy is made—into Physics, dealing with the universe and its laws, the problems of divine government and teleology; Logic, which trains the mind to discern true from false; and Ethics, which applies the knowledge thus gained and tested to practical life. The Stoic system of physics was materialism with an infusion of pantheism. In contradiction to Plato's view that the Ideas, or Prototypes, of phenomena alone really exist, the Stoics held that material objects alone existed; but immanent in the material universe was a spiritual force which acted through them, manifesting itself under many forms, as fire, aether, spirit, soul, reason, the ruling principle.

The universe, then, is God, of whom the popular gods are manifestations; while legends and myths are allegorical. The soul of man is thus an emanation from the godhead, into whom it will eventually be re-absorbed. The divine ruling principle makes all things work together for good, but for the good of the whole. The highest good of man is consciously to work with God for the common good, and this is the sense in which the Stoic tried to live in accord with nature. In the individual it is virtue alone which enables him to do this; as Providence rules the universe, so virtue in the soul must rule man.

In Logic, the Stoic system is noteworthy for their theory as to the test of truth, the Criterion. They compared the new-born soul to a sheet of paper ready for writing. Upon this the senses write their impressions, fantasias and by experience of a number of these the soul unconsciously conceives general notions koinai eunoiai or anticipations. prolhyeis When the impression was such as to be irresistible it was called (katalnptikh fantasia) one that holds fast, or as they explained it, one proceeding from truth. Ideas and inferences artificially produced by deduction or the like were tested by this 'holding perception.' Of the Ethical application I have already spoken. The highest good was the virtuous life. Virtue alone is happiness, and vice is unhappiness. Carrying this theory to its extreme, the Stoic said that there could be no gradations between virtue and vice, though of course each has its special manifestations. Moreover, nothing is good but virtue, and nothing but vice is bad. Those outside things which are commonly called good or bad, such as health and sickness, wealth and poverty, pleasure and pain, are to him indifferent adiofora. All these things are merely the sphere in which virtue may act. The ideal Wise Man is sufficient unto himself in all things, autarkhs and knowing these truths, he will be happy even when stretched upon the rack. It is probable that no Stoic claimed for himself that he was this Wise Man, but that each strove after it as an ideal much as the Christian strives after a likeness to Christ. The exaggeration in this statement was, however, so obvious, that the later Stoics were driven to make a further subdivision of things

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  • (5/5)
    Very good. A lot of it was over my head, so I wasn't entirely sure of what he was trying to tell me (or himself...) But this is a book I'll read again someday. It is a must for anyone interested in stoicism, or classical philosophy, or becoming the best version of themselves. It is also a great insight into the mind of a very interesting person.
  • (5/5)
    Philosophy was a hard sell for me to actually read, I’ll admit. In high school I always wanted to be someone who could quote and understood ancient philosophers. I’ve acquired several books and never read them. But when a friend shared a quote from this book that struck a chord, I knew I would actually read this one. Even if it did take me a rather long time.Here’s a snippet of that quote:You will never be remarkable for quick-wittedness. Be it so, then; yet there are still a host of other qualities whereof you cannot say, 'I have no bent for them.' Cultivate these, then, for they are wholly within your power: sincerity, for example, and dignity; industriousness, and sobriety. It’s worth mentioning that I have questions about his views on slavery and think he may have been a misogynist, but also that every single “you” in this text was addressed to himself. Apparently this masterful philosopher and emperor struggled with certain concepts a lot and attempted to steer his mind to better thoughts. It’s really commendable. I doubt my own ‘notes to self’ would be as compelling.I’ve heard it from several readers, the Penguin Great Ideas edition is really good. I marked that sucker up, and despite a slow and rocky beginning find myself thinking often of things that Marcus has said and wanting to re-read and share things with everyone. We disagree on a lot, but still, I’d love to hang out with that dude."You don't mind if I call you Marcus, do you?" I’ll say when I drop in to have a beer in his courtyard, put my feet up on the furniture and annoy the shit out of him.I'm really glad I read it.
  • (4/5)
    This book definately left me thinking. It was engaging and a times difficult but overall I think Meditations is a very worthwhile read.
  • (4/5)
    I really rather enjoyed this. I admit I don't know much aside from the basics of Marcus Aurelius. I found a lot of simple wisdom in this work. A few favorite lines:“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” “You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” “Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” “It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.”
  • (5/5)
    (review of Gregory Hays translation, 2003 Modern Library edition)The Meditations are, as presented by Hays in his very helpful introduction, best understood as the private spiritual exercises of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Hays' introduction lays out the various philosophic strains that shaped Marcus Aurelius' thinking, and fits the work into the broader cultural context of late Roman attitudes towards life, philosophy, and religion. The translation is fluid and incisive, making the thoughts come alive.The Mediations will reward periodic rereading. The author spirals obsessively around a handful of philosophical themes: that everything we know, love, or hate is transient and will pass away; that freedom comes from accepting that most of the world - everything other than one's own choices about how to behave -- ultimately lies beyond one's control; that virtue is rooted in self-discipline. For most of us, there's a lot more to life than this, but as he works and reworks his themes, Marcus Aurelius reveals new angles or insights that give the Meditations a rich depth. Throughout, I kept wondering, with his focus on transience, self-discipline, and compassion towards others, what Marcus Aurelius would have made of Buddhism.Underlying its wisdom, the Meditations carries two striking internal tensions. The first may simply reflect the gap between the author's intent - personal spiritual exercises -- and the book's acquired status as a work for the ages. Marcus Aurelius constantly suggests that anyone in his audience can follow his advice and be free. On the other hand, the author's position -- a patriarch among patriarchs -- is hardly universal. Only for a person with great privilege could the problem of suffering look so manageable through simple willpower. This tension subsides if Marcus Aurelius really wrote for himself alone.The other major tension doesn't depend on the intended audience: Marcus Aurelius repeatedly orders the reader both to live in the present, and to be strategic - which necessarily implies thinking several steps ahead. That contradiction isn't unique to the Meditations; it's a challenge for all philosophic or religious systems that affirm transcendent values while also encouraging followers to engage and shape the world. While the tension is not resolved (can it ever be?), it gives the Meditations a realistic, pragmatic feel.
  • (3/5)
    A book to savour. A lot of things that are agreeable. Not originally for publication just Aurelius' private thoughts. Not a lot that I disagreed with.
  • (5/5)
    The inner thoughts of a Roman emperor. Profound and for some, inspiring. A mournful, yet strong man, philosopher-king, which we don't see too often anywhere.
  • (3/5)
    Marcus Aurelius was Emperor of the Roman Empire from 161 to 180 CE. Considered the last of the Five Good Emperors, he oversaw his empire with stoicism and equality. In his Meditations, written while on a military campaign in the last decade of his life, he sets forth a series of aphorisms, letters, and principles that he tried to live by. As a stoic, he thought that powerful emotions were the cause of errors in life and so sought to live a life of a more moral and intellectual manner.The Meditations aren’t really written for an audience, and this translation is a little stilted. But what you can tell is that Marcus Aurelius is trying to reflect upon a rather interesting life. There are times when he is contented in good memories and times when the ennui of his stoic life gets to him. But the overall message is to live a good life (“Death hangs over you: while you live, and while you may, be good”) and try not to be too overly swayed by things outside of one’s control. “It is not right to vex ourselves at things,” he says, “for they care not about it.”In the end, Marcus Aurelius’s message is both honorable and interesting. The writing takes a little getting used to, so it would behoove readers to find a good translation. It is, however, a rather good beginning look into stoicism and its effectiveness in the proper hands. Marcus Aurelius, when set against the likes of Nero and Domitian, rules in the vein of a philosopher king and tries desperately to do right by his people. All in all, a refreshing and intellectual book.
  • (4/5)
    I finished reading "Meditations" yesterday. It is a relatively short book but the translation is by Meric Casaubon in 1634, I believe. The language used is, I think, representative of 1634, and at times, a little hard to follow. I have now ordered a copy with language a bit more updated, I hope, without messing up the original thoughts. I'll probably wind up comparing the two versions. Anyway, I found this very interesting and I agreed with a lot in this book. I disagreed with some of it but not exactly in the sense that it was bad but more a matter of an inability on my own part to actually live the way he recommends. Anyway, I thought this was a very good book and I look forward to reading the newer version and also a book called "Marcus Aurelius: The Dialogues" by Alan Stedall and a biography of Marcus Aurelius.
  • (3/5)
    The main attraction of this book is that it is a book of philosophy written by an emperor. If it was written by someone of more lowly stature it would surely have been forgotten. It is a good insight into his mind but an unfortunate boon to those who love to think the best rulers are those who think philosophically. It would be more interesting to me if it was written by some unknown blacksmith, tailor or farm slave. At least then the question of how they acquired an education in Stoic philosophy would be interesting speculation. Nonetheless, there is some wisdom in the writings and it is encouraging to know that in the midst of such grueling military campaigns he could find time to compose a journal of something other than the progress of the legions against the barbarians.
  • (4/5)
    “Concentrate every minute like a Roman— like a man— on doing what’s in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice. And on freeing yourself from all other distractions. Yes, you can— if you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centered , irritable. You see how few things you have to do to live a satisfying and reverent life? If you can manage this, that’s all even the gods can ask of you.”In “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius“Para ser grande, sê inteiro: nada Teu exagera ou exclui.Sê todo em cada coisa. Põe quanto és No mínimo que fazes.Assim em cada lago a lua toda Brilha, porque alta vive.”In “Odes de Ricardo Reis” by Fernando PessoaWord of caution: this post is going to be all over the place.I translated this into German a long time ago. I’m not sure I’m up to the task of translating this into English this time around…Let’s give it a go:“To be great, be whole: nothingOf yours exaggerate or exclude.Be all in everything. Put all you areIn everything you do.Be like the moon thatShines whole in every lakeBecause it lives up high.”'Employees that don't care' tend to be carried by their colleagues and managers, until a point whereby their un-professionalism makes their continued employment untenable; nobody wants their workload increased by having to prop up a free-loader. Not overly caring about work and being professional are not mutually exclusive - the “not overly caring” just means not getting too emotional about work, having an objective view about what's achievable and not letting personal feelings interfere too much. Actually it's the opposite. Understanding what's important, not getting bogged down in minutiae and focusing on priorities is perfectly doable while not giving a shit. A lot of people waste their day moaning how busy they are, talking crap in meetings and generally not doing any actual work - while looking like they really care. If someone is continually self-sacrificing in picking up slack to the point of martyrdom, is it your issue or theirs? I fail to see why this is an image worth aspiring to.I think Bhuddism has a lot more baggage than stoicism though and at some level with the meditation and worldview anticipates neuroscience that was to come 2000 years later. They intuited that we were meat puppets and they managed to see behind the veil of our always chattering mind. I don't think stoicism was that clear-sighted. The messages along the lines of "if you don't work hard others have to pick up the slack" amaze me. Why do others need to pick up the slack? Why is it in your interest that you work extra hard for your company, or that your company makes more profits. Are you going to see any of that? No you are not. Pick up the slack for whom exactly? Incredible self-righteous slave mentality that perfectly illustrates the plutocracy we live in. It can also become a situation whereby if you are continuously picking up the slack, others may leave things for you to as 'sure Doggybone will do it, he practically lives here', while he get to leave early. Being a martyr for a company, work group or manager is a fool’s move: “Doggy got the bone!”I advocate ducking out of professional life’s more pointless rituals, like (some) conference calls. “I have never been on a conference call where something actually got decided or accomplished,” some people might say. Might work for some. I have done most of my boldest and successful things by conference call. I've usually met them previously, but not always. The phone is a terrible, wonderful thing. I hate it in lots of ways, but it’s useful to run a business when your partners are in different facilities and sometimes countries! I think it’s important to recognise the times in work when a little extra effort is needed and apply yourself in those moments. Making sure you hold the line and persevere until the problem or task has been resolved will get you far. About twenty years ago I found myself looking at a picture of the tombstone of Man Ray, in Montparnasse cemetery (I was visiting Berardo’s exhibition in Lisbon and I became fascinated by some of his paintings on show). Man Ray’s tombstone was a simple, concrete slab, and it had just four hand written words written on it by hand by Juliette Man Ray. They read: “Unconcerned, but not indifferent.” I lost track of the time I stood in stunned silence, contemplating this thought (I was still in the exhibition; I like to look up artists online I’m not familiar with when I’m go to museums or art exhibitions). This particular thought has become my own rallying cry, and it's made a huge difference to how I work since a few years ago. This means, I'll do what I can, to the best of my ability, and as quickly as I can. If others want to stay late, needlessly fretting over largely pointless nonsense, that's their issue. I aim to stay detached, but alert. So I've gradually managed to shift my perspective to I'll come in, I'll do my job and - on occasion when required - will work above and beyond to make shit happen but I'm damned if I'll be a martyr to the cause. I worked with one of those some years ago, and, frankly, it was exhausting to be around. He was also one of the least organised and least productive members of our team. I also am very comfortable speaking to all directors as equals and don't shy away from a healthy debate around decisions and strategy (I was once a 2nd line SAP Manager so I know what I’m talking about). In fact, these days I rather enjoy it. As a result, work has become easier and my productivity has increased. Worry can make you an incredible procrastinator. So, in conclusion, not giving a fuck is truly liberating. I highly recommend it.Turning to the books at hand, which I read for the umpteenth time, I think Buddhism has a lot more baggage than stoicism though and at some level with the meditation and worldview anticipates neuroscience that was to come 2000 years later. They intuited that we were meat puppets and they managed to see behind the veil of our always chattering mind. I don't think stoicism was that clear-sighted. I agree with the stance that learning when to give a fuck and when not to is at the crux of the matter, because it is exhausting and impossible to keep on top of the chaos of reality in an ordered way. Sometimes you've just got to realize that some things don't turn out how you expected them to and be at peace with that fact. Some years ago, I started coming to work with mismatched socks. My thoughts were that the people who saw me without shoes knew me well enough to get the point - and I have to say it gave me a perverse sort of pleasure going to meetings with my directors knowing I had mismatched socks :-) Small minds and all that :-) Life's too short to be concerned about wearing matching socks...NB: I finished this book on the 18th of April after having been told that a colleague of mine from work, who I had worked with at a major client, had passed away at the tender age of 41 years old. This review reflects the way my take on life is starting to shift. I know I’m a bit late, but better late than never…
  • (4/5)
    It seems that Marcus Aurelius put a lot of effort into making it easy to get to the heart of ideas quickly. Which makes this a very quotable book.“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.”“Your mind will take the shape of what you frequently hold in thought, for the human spirit is colored by such impressions.”“Not to feel exasperated, or defeated, or despondent because your days aren’t packed with wise and moral actions. But to get back up when you fail, to celebrate behaving like a human—however imperfectly—and fully embrace the pursuit that you’ve embarked on.”Three Key Takeaway Lessons from Meditations- “You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”- People will always do awful things but we are only responsible our own virtue.- We will die, and we ought not waste our lives being distressed. We should focus on doing good for others with the unknowable amount of time we have left to live. To make this a part of our lives we must reflect regularly on the fact that we will die.
  • (5/5)
    Succinct self-help for the stoic. The introduction in the Modern Library edition sets the historical context well and the translation makes most of the advice read as practical and not overly-repetetive.
  • (4/5)
    Some ranting, but still a good read. Take the writing in context of a successful though dying person.
  • (2/5)
    Hodge podge of truisms by a world leader obviously convinced of his own moral superiority. Is there wisdom in here? Sure, but it is wisdom any intelligent, remotely self reflective, person will already possess.
  • (4/5)
    I read the Hays translation, and enjoyed this quite a bit. I'll be thinking about it for a while.
  • (4/5)
    Reading Aurelius is an enlightening experience and as one reads it, it becomes clear as to how erroneous some of our beliefs / actions are.
    A foundation in stoic philosophy is essential to fully grasp the meaning of Marcus's maxims. Without a firm grounding in the stoic principles many of the aphorisms can appear to be morbid, conceited or advocating a life of resignation.
    This book was written hundreds of years ago and is still valid to the most, this is wisdom of ages.
    Do not read this book as a scholar, read it slowly and think about it!
  • (2/5)
    The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius is an understandable book in which the Roman emperor provides his philosophy on life, death, and morality. He appears to have been a pious man who believed in the Roman gods. He believed in a moral life and the morality of his gods. He appears practical and spends a good deal of his discussion on the topic of death. I recommend the book for someone interested in historical philosophy. His understanding was limited by the science of the day, but he his thoughts on life and morality are still valuable.
  • (5/5)
    Marcus Aurelius emphasizes several themes in his notes on life known as the Meditations. Among them are the tenets that underlie the stoic philosophy that he learned from his teachers including a discussion of the importance of your duty both to your own nature and that of the whole universe. It is with these tenets in mind that we see him telling us to accept what is beyond our control (5.8) in his expression of the notion that freedom for man is possible only when he is indifferent to the his fate as decreed by nature. His view expresses this in the sense that the we are all a part of the whole of nature and recognition of that is necessary to achieve the good. The good which is always the moral good.The importance of this is seldom clearer than when Aurelius notes the importance of focusing on the present, the "task at hand" if you will by exercising dispassionate justice in the following way:"Vacating your mind from all its other thoughts. And you will achieve this vacation if you perform each action as if it were the last of your life: freed, that is, from all lack of aim, from all passion-led deviation from the ordinance of reason, from pretence, from love of self, from dissatisfaction with what fate has dealt you." (2.5)It is acting like this, not in any morbid sense, but with a cheerfulness of mind, as described in the quote from Seneca above, that you will achieve the tranquility of being that is the ultimate form of happiness.
  • (4/5)
    I've often wondered why we, as a society, focus so much on the views of the powerful and the wealthy. Surely there are millions of men and women who have sided toward a philosophy weighted with moral integrity . I decided that the wealthy and the powerful must overcome temptations that the average man or woman would never dream of. The antics of today's Hollywood stars should suffice to demonstrate that fame, wealth and power can saturate men and women in false senses of superiority. And money and power must provide access to a large variety of creative sins. Despite these realities, Marcus Aurelius, in the years 121-180 A.D., explores a very healthy mindset and provides some guidelines that are every bit as applicable today, some 1940 years later, as they were in the midst of the Roman Empire.
  • (4/5)
    Meditations shows one of the great philosopher kings, Marcus Aurelius, struggling with his internal views and grappling with his own brand of stoicism. It is structured in such a way that it seems like his own inner monologue is speaking to you through the pages. Even after all this time, it is full of great quotes that I will have to look back upon. It seems to repeat itself by addressing the topic in different ways, almost as if he was trying to convince himself to the truth of his writings through some inner debate.
  • (3/5)
    This book is not my favourite of the Great Ideas series but it wasn't all bad either. I would categorise it as: "a classic you might as well read" because even if I wouldn't read it again there were still some good bits and as the book can be finished in one afternoon, you won't feel like you wasted a lot of time in the event you won't enjoy it.
  • (5/5)
    This is one of the most splendid things that I have ever read. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is full of ideas by which to live, many of which are also highly suitable for printing out and pinning to your office wall. Another reviewer has already quoted my favourite meditation, `Begin each day ...' so I won't repeat it here. Donning my Old Fart's hat I have to say that the world would be an infinitely better place if more people had read this.
  • (5/5)
    I have read this book a number of times and always gain something new each time I revisit it. Although I find aspects of Stoic thinking quite foreign, there is unquestionably a disciplined and humble mind behind these words. I wish more of our contemporary leaders could muster the courage to be as humble.
  • (4/5)
    A good read as far as references books go, but as with the other translations, sooner or later you begin to wonder what was actually written before the language was "updated" or modernized. Still, it’s fascinating to be reading what a great historical figure was thinking and writing in the second century and then coming to realize that nothing much has changed in human behavior.What made this translation a bit more interesting, however, was the biographical forward in which Mr. Hays describes, in brief, the life and times of Marcus Aurelius. This was fascinating to me UNTIL Mr. Hays went on safari in the in philosophical tall grass. I needed but a primer on "Logos," the prevailing philosophy of the time. And while I don't doubt that Mr. Hays thought that this was precisely what he wrote, that’s not how it read for me. Lastly, it seems to me that the "meditations" could be summed up as follows: "To thine own self be true;" Seek and tell the truth; Do unto others as you would have done unto you; and know that everyone you know is struggling with something you know nothing about. Three and a half stars.
  • (4/5)
    This book was originally Marcus Aurelius's journal of philosophical notes to himself, and it definitely shows. Marcus was obviously a talented writer, and parts of it are very interesting, but he makes his points in a more or less random order, and it tends to get really repetitive. The repetition was probably great for Marcus, because it shows which ideas he really felt the need to constantly remind himself of, but on the other hand it's not that helpful for the rest of us.
  • (5/5)
    Reading just a few paragraphs a day is great way to center yourself before every day. Amazing book.
  • (3/5)
    Remember that you will die soon, Aurelius says, and you will behave properly, without too much concern for glory. After all, anyone who remembers you will also soon die, in the larger scheme of things, and you’ll all be dead much longer than you were alive.
  • (5/5)
    An important, but oft neglected, work of Graeco-Roman philosophy. Marcus Aurelius was insightful, if not extremely downhearted, and represents some of the finest philosophical thinking of his time.
  • (3/5)
    There is something about Marcus Aurelius's brand of Stoicism that appeals to me. His almost simple belief in the power of reason and truth is comforting. His text offers helpful habits of mind that would be appreciated by anyone who values the practice of mindfulness and attention. I can easily see myself coming back to this book later in life.