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Meditations: A New Translation

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Few ancient works have been as influential as the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, philosopher and emperor of Rome (A.D. 161–180). A series of spiritual exercises filled with wisdom, practical guidance, and profound understanding of human behavior, it remains one of the greatest works of spiritual and ethical reflection ever written. Marcus’s insights and advice—on everything from living in the world to coping with adversity and interacting with others—have made the Meditations required reading for statesmen and philosophers alike, while generations of ordinary readers have responded to the straightforward intimacy of his style. For anyone who struggles to reconcile the demands of leadership with a concern for personal integrity and spiritual well-being, the Meditations remains as relevant now as it was two thousand years ago.

In Gregory Hays’s new translation—the first in thirty-five years—Marcus’s thoughts speak with a new immediacy. In fresh and unencumbered English, Hays vividly conveys the spareness and compression of the original Greek text. Never before have Marcus’s insights been so directly and powerfully presented.

With an Introduction that outlines Marcus’s life and career, the essentials of Stoic doctrine, the style and construction of the Meditations, and the work’s ongoing influence, this edition makes it possible to fully rediscover the thoughts of one of the most enlightened and intelligent leaders of any era.

254 pages, ebook

First published January 1, 180

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Marcus Aurelius

829 books4,458 followers
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus (often referred to as "the wise") was Emperor of the Roman Empire from 161 to his death in 180. He was the last of the "Five Good Emperors", and is also considered one of the more important Stoic philosophers. His two decades as emperor were marked by near continual warfare. He was faced with a series of invasions from German tribes, and by conflicts with the Parthian Empire in the east. His reign also had to deal with an internal revolt in the east, led by Avidius Cassius.

Marcus Aurelius' work Meditations, written in Greek while on campaign between 170 and 180, is still revered as a literary monument to a government of service and duty and has been praised for its "exquisite accent and its infinite tenderness."

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 11,552 reviews
Profile Image for Glenn Russell.
1,358 reviews11.8k followers
August 2, 2021

In many important ways, the reflections of Marcus Aurelius (121 AD-180 AD) crystallize the philosophical wisdom of the Greco-Roman world. This little book was written as a diary to himself while emperor fighting a war out on the boarder of the Roman Empire and today this book is known to us as The Meditations.

The Roman philosophers are not as well known or as highly regarded as Greek philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, or Zeno the Stoic - and for a simple reason: the Roman thinkers were not primarily interested in abstract theory; rather, they were concerned with behavior, that is, understanding how to live in the everyday world and putting their understanding into practice,the goal being to live the life of an authentic philosopher, to be a person of high character and integrity and virtue, to develop inner strength and a quiet mind and value such strength and quietude above all else.

Indeed, to accomplish such a lofty goal, the Romans realized the need for radical transformation, a complete overhauling of one's life through rigorous mental and physical training, like turning base metal into pure gold. And once a person takes on the role of a philosopher, their deeds must reflect their words - no hypocrisy, thank you! Thus, it isn't surprising the Romans put a premium on memorizing and internalizing simple proverbs and maxims and employed the metaphor of philosophy as the medicine to cure a sick soul.

Turning now to Marcus Aurelius, we can appreciate how he imbibed the wisdom not only from the Stoics (along with Seneca and Epictetus, Marcus is considered one of the three major Roman Stoics), but he was also willing to learn from the schools of Epicurus, Plato and Aristotle. In the Greco-Roman world, being eclectic was perfectly acceptable; truth was valued over who said what.

We find several recurring themes in The Meditations:

1) develop self-discipline to gain control over judgments and desires;

2) overcoming a fear of death;

3) value an ability to retreat into a rich, interior mental life (one's inner citadel);

4) recognize the world as a manifestation of the divine;

5) live according to reason;

6) avoid luxury and opulence.

But generalizations will not approach the richness and wisdom nuggets a reader will find in Marcus's actual words. Thus I'll conclude with my personal observations coupled with quotes from Book One, wherein Marcus begins by expressing heartfelt thanks to his family and teachers for the many fine lessons he learned as a youth. Here are four of my favorites:

"Not to have frequented public schools, and to have had good teachers at home" ---------- After my own nasty experience with the mindless competition and regimentation of public schools, I wish I had Marcus's good fortune of excellent home schooling.

"Not to meddle with other people's affairs, and not to be ready to listen to slander." ---------- I didn't need a teacher here; I recognized on my own at an early age that gossip is a colossal waste of time and energy, both listening to gossip and spreading gossip. I can't imagine a clearer indication of a base, coarse mind than someone inclined to gossip and slandering others.

"To read carefully, and not to be satisfied with a superficial understanding of a book." ---------- How true. Reading isn't a race to get to the last page; matter of fact, I agree with Jorge Luis Borges that focused, precise rereading is the key to opening oneself to the wisdom of a book.

"To be satisfied on all occasions, and be cheerful." ---------- I'm never in a hurry. Life is too beautiful to be in a hurry. For me, there is only one way to live each day: in joy and free from anxiety and worry. In a sense, along with the goal of virtue, all of the meditations of Marcus Aurelius amplify this simple view of life.

I've written this review as an encouragement to make Marcus Aurelius a part of your life. You might not agree with everything he has to say, but you have to admit, Marcus has a really cool beard and head of hair.
Profile Image for Brad Lyerla.
208 reviews165 followers
January 10, 2022
When I was a freshman in college, I lived in a dorm. My roommate was on the football team. He would write inspiring things on poster board and hang them in our room often on the ceiling above his bed to motivate himself. He favored straightforward sentiments like "never give up."

The Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius did not hang motivational posters for inspiration. Instead, he kept a journal in which he collected his thoughts about how to live well. MEDITATIONS is that book.

Most people have heard that Aurelius counsels to expect the worst and you will never be disappointed. While that is part of what he has to say, it is not the most interesting of what he has to say. At his most thoughtful, Aurelius calls on us to ask the best of ourselves and never mind the behavior of others. His MEDITATIONS is a work of motivational advice to inspire us in the ways of stoicism. It is a manual for being a complete, mature adult. It is a guide for living a dignified, thoughtful life.

Consider: "Suppose that a god announced that you were going to die tomorrow 'or the day after'. Unless you were a complete coward you wouldn't kick up a fuss about which day it was - what difference could it make? Now recognize that the difference between years from now and tomorrow is just as small." Book IV (Greg Hays trans., Modern Library)

Or: "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 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." Book II

And: "If at some point in your life, you should come across anything better than justice, honesty, self-control, courage - than a mind satisfied that it succeeded in enabling you to act rationally, and satisfied to accept what is beyond its control - if you find anything better than that, embrace it without reservations - it must be an extraordinary thing indeed - and enjoy it to the full." Book III

That these thoughts came from the most powerful man in the world, a man whose personal power so vastly exceeded the personal power of any American president that we have difficulty comprehending it, makes it all the more impressive. Aurelius continually writes that strength comes from humility, self-restraint and good humor towards others. He teaches us to accept what we cannot control and to trust what we know.

Good advice, indeed.
Profile Image for Alexandra Petri.
Author 8 books330 followers
December 30, 2014
This basically consists of Marcus Aurelius repeating, "Get it together, Marcus" to himself over and over again over the course of 12 chapters.

-The time during which you are alive is very very brief compared to the time during which you did not exist and will not exist.
-People who wrong you only do so from ignorance, and if you can correct them without being a jerk about it, you should do so.
-You are a little soul dragging around a corpse.
-Whether or not things injure you lies in your opinion about them, and you can control that opinion.

That's about it.

The fascinating thing about these philosophical ideas is that if they were expressed a single time, they might seem profound and solid and convincing. But repeated over and over like a rosary, you feel that Marcus is struggling against really serious grueling daily doubt -- that these are things that he wishes to be true, not things that he knows to be true, normative rather than descriptive statements. Which makes for a fascinating and subtext-y read, especially given his history.
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,113 reviews44.4k followers
September 27, 2020
Look within: do not allow the special quality or worth of anything to pass you by.

I love this quote and I love the wisdom that runs through this book. It’s such a simple idea and it is also a very true one. Make the most of everything and everyone, of every situation and chance that life throws your way because when they have passed, we may not get them again.

Marcus Aurelius is full of logic and revealing comments about life, death and the universe. His meditations are very open and very honest. And I found them quite touching. The history of his reign as Roman Emperor is impressive, but behind all his success was a very human person struggling and suffering with the same problems that plague all of us. He comes to terms with his mortality and his insignificance in the face of history and time. We are all of us only here a brief time, and we need to make the most of it.

All is ephemeral, both memory and the object of memory

The book moves into discussions over the temporary nature of things, of relationships and friendships and feelings. Everything changes given enough time, even memories and their ramifications. Aurelius soul searches. He writes these words during times of peace and war, during times of duty and heart ache, though his tone rarely changes. He remains detached and accepting of destiny and where it may take him. From this he ponders how to give life meaning and purpose.

Aurelius suggests that one of the ways we can do this is through work, real work and toil as we strive to meet our goals. He suggests that it is an edifying pursuit, to serve the development of humanity. It gives life meaning and purpose as we work and improve. He also argues for the creation of art and that in attaining it, it's one of the greatest pursuits we can follow because of how it benefits mankind. I agree with so many of the sentiments in here, and those that challenged my own beliefs got me thinking about the nature of life.
Profile Image for Maru Kun.
215 reviews486 followers
May 11, 2015
Marcus gives us wise advice about using the Internet, particularly social networking sites:
“...because most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you'll have more time and more tranquillity. Ask yourself at every moment, is this necessary…”

He shares his opinions on the worst types of modern professional. He does not approve of lobbyists and is rightly worried about their influence on the legislative process. We should heed his words:
“...so long as the law is safe, so is the city and the citizen…”.

He has harsh things to say about public relations executives;
“...to say what you don't think - the definition of absurdity…”.

He understands the modern office dynamic, reminding himself:
“...Not to be constantly telling people that I am too busy, unless I really am. Similarly, not to be always ducking my responsibilities to the people around me because of "pressing business"..."

Marcus has advice for politicians, which it is clear from this book he thinks are untrustworthy, illogical and prone to anger. He condemns unreservedly all their faults and the problems with the modern electoral system:
“...it makes you betray a trust, or lose your sense of shame, or make you show hatred, suspicion, ill will, or hypocrisy, or a desire for things best done behind closed doors.

“...A desire for things best done behind closed doors…” - Marcus is spot on in identifying a lack of democratic accountability, fostered by the CIA, NSA, GCHQ and the rest of the security paraphernalia, as being at the root of many of our current political problems.

In the UK there is a tradition for politicians, or at least for the posher type of politician, to study “PPE” or “Politics, Philosophy and Economics” at either Oxford or Cambridge University.

But despite such an expensive education our political masters don't have half the grasp on the classics that Marcus has, which is remarkable considering he was home-schooled. I wish Marcus would consider a career in politics just to show up our current representatives for the intellectual pygmies that they really are.

Marcus also gives us advice on a more personal level. I don’t know much about his background but I can be sure he is the father of teenage children! Can he really keep his temper?
“...they are drawn toward what they think is good for them, but if it is not good for them then prove it to them instead of losing your temper…”

Unlike other self-help writers he doesn’t flinch at reminding us about our own mortality:
“...Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now take what's left and live it properly…”

We should remember:
“...not to live as if you had endless years in front of you. Death overshadows you. While you're alive and able, be good…”

and also
“...how much more damage anger and grief do than the things that cause them…”

How refreshing if more authors of self help books would confront squarely the central issue of our own mortality and our negative emotions of anger or frustration instead of forever hiding from these topics.

So to end with my favorite paragraph, from book 10 paragraph 5. One for physicists as well as philosophers to puzzle over:
“...whatever happens to you has been waiting to happen since the beginning of time. The twining strands of fate wove both of them together: your own existence and the things that happen to you. ..”

I don’t normally read self help books. Often they seem full of cliches left over from the Victorian era. And in this book, which may have been modeled on the writings of Alain De Botton, Marcus mixes in a lot of philosophy and this just isn’t to everyone’s taste.

But with this short work Marcus, who is Italian, and his co-author Gregory Hays have brought the format right up to date by reflecting squarely on the types of issues that we all face today.

A great book by an author who - and this is no exaggeration - deserves a statue to be put up for him. I can only wish I could meet Marcus one day. In fact I’ll be checking out if he has any book signings lined up. If he has a decent agent I’m sure he has.
Profile Image for Valeriu Gherghel.
Author 6 books1,302 followers
February 24, 2023
„Lasă deoparte cărţile! Nu te mai chinui...” (II: 2)
„Înlătură setea de cărţi, ca să nu mori cîrtind, ci cu adevărat senin şi recunoscător din toată inima zeilor” (II: 3).

Cînd Marcus Aurelius notează acest îndemn ciudat (cel puțin pentru cititorul de astăzi), el se gîndește, de fapt, la un singur om: la el însuși. Împăratul nu a intenționat niciodată să scrie o carte propriu-zisă și pentru un public larg, precum Seneca, precum prietenul Fronto. Și cu atît mai puțin să o publice.

Însemnările lui au avut din capul locului un singur destinatar. Și acest destinatar nu a fost altul decît Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus (121 - 180). N-a voit să fie învățătorul altcuiva. N-a sfătuit pe nimeni. Nu a impus altora cum să-și trăiască viața. A scris pentru sine, așa cum arată titlul meditațiilor sale: Ta eis heauton [hypomnemata]: Gînduri către sine însuși. Deși titlul nu-i aparține.

Scria noaptea, în puținul timp rămas liber, pe cîmpul de luptă, în cortul de ostaș, luminat precar, în lungile și obositoarele campanii purtate la granițele imperiului, prin „țara cvazilor, pe malul rîului Granua” (adică în Panonia de azi), cum precizează într-un rînd (I: 17), prin ținuturile triburilor germane, în Galia ori în Asia Mică. Nu a avut deloc vanitate de autor. Vreme de mai bine de un mileniu, lucrarea lui a fost foarte puțin cunoscută. O menționează doar Arethas din Caesarea în secolul X.

Observațiile împăratului, scrise în limba greacă (și nu în latină), între anii 170 și 180, au fost tipărite abia în 1558, după un manuscris azi pierdut.

Prin urmare, îndemnul „Înlătură setea de cărți, ca să nu mori cîrtind!” este adresat numai și numai sieși. El poate fi interpretat, desigur, în multe feluri.

Ar fi, mă gîndesc, strigătul de exasperare al unui cititor pragmatic, care înțelege dintr-o dată puținul folos adus de cărți. Ar reprezenta astfel un reproș adus omului care citește în loc să ia parte la viața publică. Reproșul este perfect stoic. Seninătatea, apatheia nu se obțin prin răsfoirea cărților, ci prin exercițiu spiritual, prin meditație asiduă la destin, natură și moarte. În concluzie, convingerea lui Marcus Aurelius pare să fi fost aceasta: cînd te confrunți cu bătrînețea, cu fragilitatea ființei umane, cu moartea, cărțile (și lectura) sînt de puțin folos. Seneca a afirmat același lucru: e mult mai util să meditezi la un scurt pasaj decît să răsfoiești zilnic mormane de cărți. Ca filosof din stirpea stoicilor, împăratul Marcus Aurelius nu a iubit prea mult cărțile, dar nu cred că a fost un bibliofob veritabil...

Adaug un singur citat despre nimicnicia tuturor lucrurilor pe care le prețuim fără temei:

„După cum ne formăm reprezentări despre felurile de mîncare, gîndind că acesta este cadavrul unui peşte, acesta – al unei păsări sau al unui porc, şi, de asemenea, că vinul de Falern este sucul stors din struguri şi că toga pretextă e lînă de oaie impregnată cu sînge de scoică…, tot aşa trebuie să procedăm toată viaţa şi, cînd ne reprezentăm lucrurile ca prea demne de încredere, trebuie să le dezgolim, să le surprindem mica lor valoare şi să înlăturăm pretinsa credibilitate datorită căreia erau considerate de valoare. Periculoasă amăgire este trufia şi, cînd socoteşti mai degrabă că te ocupi de lucruri importante, atunci mai ales eşti victima iluziei” (VI: 13).

P. S. De la stoici, probabil, a învățat E. M. Cioran lecția deprecierii lucrurilor sfinte: „Sărutul nu e decît amestecul a două salive”.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
April 22, 2022
Τὰ εἰς ἑαυτόν = Meditations, Marcus Aurelius

Meditations is a series of personal writings by Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor from AD 161 to 180, recording his private notes to himself and ideas on Stoic philosophy.

The Meditations is divided into 12 books that chronicle different periods of Aurelius' life. Each book is not in chronological order and it was written for no one but himself. The style of writing that permeates the text is one that is simplified, straightforward, and perhaps reflecting Aurelius' Stoic perspective on the text.Aurelius advocates finding one's place in the universe and sees that everything came from nature, and so everything shall return to it in due time.

Another strong theme is of maintaining focus and to be without distraction all the while maintaining strong ethical principles such as "Being a good man."

تاریخ نخستین خوانش روز نوزدهم ماه سپتامبر سال2006میلادی

عنوان: ت‍ام‍لات‌؛ نویسنده: م‍ارک‍وس‌ اورل‍ی‍وس‌ امپراتور روم؛ مت‍رج‍م ع‍رف‍ان‌ ث‍اب‍ت‍ی‌؛ تهران، ققنوس، سال1384؛ در158ص؛ شابک9643116107؛ چاپ دوم سال1387؛ شابک9789643116101؛ چاپ سوم سال1389؛ چاپ چهارم سال1391؛ چاپ پنجم سال1393؛ چاپ هفتم سال1396؛ چاپ هشتم سال1397؛ ویراست دوم تهران، ققنوس، چاپهای دهم و یازدهم سال1398؛ در192ص؛ شابک9786220402916؛ موضوع راه و رسم زندگی از نویسندگان روم باستان - سده02میلادی

عنوان: ت‍ام‍لات‌؛ نویسنده: م‍ارک‍وس‌ اورل‍ی‍وس‌ امپراتور روم؛ مت‍رج‍مها: م‍ه‍دی‌ ب‍اق‍ی‌، ش‍ی‍ری‍ن‌ م‍خ‍ت‍اری‍ان‌؛ تهران، نشر نی، سال1384؛ در159ص؛ شابک9643127931؛ چاپ دوم سال1386؛ شابک9789643127930؛

عنوان: تاملات؛ مارکوس ارلیوس (اورلیوس)؛ مترجم بابک کیان؛ تهران، میلکان، سال1398؛ در184ص؛ شابک ندارد

این کتاب با بازنویسی «دونالد راتسون» و با عنوان «چگونه مانند یک امپراتور بیندیشیم» نیز چاپ شده است

مارکوس آئورلیوس آنتونیوس، یا «مارک اورل»، از امپراتوران بزرگ «روم» بوده اند؛ ایشان یکی از «پنج امپراتور خوب»، از دودمان «آنتونی نروایی»، و یک فیلسوف رواقی (براساس آموزه های این فلسفه انسان باید راه رسیدن به خوشبختی را پیدا کند) بودند؛ که در روز بیست و ششم از ماه آوریل سال121میلادی زاده‌ شدند، و در روز هفدم از ماه مارس سال180میلادی به بیماری تیفوس درگذشتند؛ ایشان نقش برجسته‌ ای در آخرین دوره ی جنگ‌های «رم» علیه «اشکانیان» داشتند، این کتاب را بین سال‌های170میلادی تا سال180میلادی، در حالی که «روم» در جنگ بود، بنگاشتند؛ «مارکوس آئورلیوس» فرمانروایی بودند، که فرمانروایی را دوست نداشتند؛ ایشان از کودکی میخواستند فیلسوف شوند، او با خوانش زندگی «سقراط» به وجد می‌آمد، کتاب «تأملات» اثری شامل دوازده کتاب است؛ که «آئورلیوس» اندیشه‌های خود را در آنها بیان کرده‌ اند؛ این اثر که شامل متن‌های کوتاه و یادداشت‌هاست؛ در دنیای غرب بسیار مورد توجه است، و بارها به زبان‌های اروپایی ترجمه شده‌ است

نقل از متن: (مرا بردار و هر جای این جهان که می‌خواهی بینداز! هر جا که باشم، خدای قلبم را خوشحال و راضی نگاه می‌دارد؛ که این نتیجه وقتی‌ست که کردار و رفتار ما، طبیعت حقیقی خود را دنبال کنند…؛ آیا آنچه که بر من می‌گذرد دلیلی کافی خواهد بود برای اینکه من بیمار و شکسته، تحقیر شده و گرسنه، و در غل و زنجیر باشم؟ آیا -هیچ جا- دلیلی کافی برای این‌گونه زیستن داری؟؛

ای هستی! نظم تو نظم درونی من است: هیچ چیز اگر در زمان مناسب توست، نه بر من زود و نه بر من دیر است؛ ای حقیقت هستی! هرچه که فصل‌هایت بار آرد بر من میوه (رضا) است: که همه چیز از تو می‌آید و هستی همه چیز در توست و به تو بازمی‌گردد…؛

این فکر را که «من رنج کشیده‌ام» را بیرون کن و رنج، خود بیرون خواهد رفت

شرم‌آور است که عقل، ظاهرمان را شکل می‌دهد، اما قادر به شکل‌دادن خود نیست؛ بدیهی است که هیچ‌گاه در زندگی شرایطی بهتر از این برای فراگیری فلسفه نخواهی داشت!؛

زمانی که روز خود را آغاز می‌کنید، به این فکر کنید که چه موهبت با ارزشیست که زنده اید - که نفس می‌کشید، تفکر می‌کنید، لذت می‌برید، که عشق می‌ورزید

شادی زندگی شما به ��یفیت افکارتان بستگی دارد

به درونت بنگر! در درونت چشمه ی قدرتی وجود دارد که هر وقت بخوانی اش، به تو یاری خواهد کرد

خودت را در رویاهای داشتن چیزهایی که نداری، غرق نکن، اما موهبت‌هایی که دارا هستی را بشمار، و شکرگزارانه به خاطر داشته باش که چطور رؤیای داشتنشان را در سرت می‌پروراندی اگر نداشتی‌شان

هدف زندگی این نیست که با اکثریت همراه شوی، بلکه در نپیوستن به جمع بیخردان است

اصلی که بایستی در آینده به خاطر بسپاری، وقتی که رنج‌ها مجبورت می‌کنند که احساس تلخی کنی، این است: که افتادن اتفاق تلخ بداقبالی نیست، که تحمل رنج‌ها بدون از دست دادن امید است، که خوش‌ اقبالی است)؛ پایان

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 28/06/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ 01/02/1401هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Carolyn Marie  Castagna.
274 reviews5,785 followers
November 28, 2022
“Love only what falls your way and is fated to you. What could suit you more than that?”

“Even if you were destined to live three thousand years, or ten times that long, nevertheless remember that no one loses any life other than the one he lives, or lives any life other than the one he loses…No one can lose either the past or the future – how could anyone be deprived of what he does not possess?…It is only the present moment of which either stands to be deprived: and if indeed this is all he has, he cannot lose what he does not have.”

“Men seek retreats for themselves – in the country, by the sea, in the hills – and you yourself are particularly prone to this yearning. But all this is quite unphilosophic, when it is open to you, at any time you want, to retreat into yourself. No retreat offers someone more quiet and relaxation then that into his own mind, especially if he can dip into thoughts there which put him at immediate and complete ease: and by ease I simply mean a well ordered life.”

“So discard all else and secure these few things only. Remind yourself too that each of us lives only in the present moment, a mere fragment of time: the rest is life past or uncertain future. Sure, life is a small thing, and small the cranny of the earth in which we live it: small too even the longest fame thereafter, which is itself subject to a succession of a little men who will quickly die, and have no knowledge even of themselves, let alone of those long dead.”

“What a tiny part of the boundless abyss of time has been allotted to each of us – and this is soon vanished in eternity; what a tiny part of the universal substance and the universal soul; how tiny in the whole earth the mere clod on which you creep. Reflecting on all this, think nothing important other than active pursuit where your own nature leads and passive acceptance of what universal nature brings.”

Profile Image for Always Pouting.
568 reviews716 followers
February 14, 2020
Someone lent me this because they thought it might help me feel better/change my thinking. I was like sure I'll give it a chance but like sorry to say it did nothing. I feel as though many of the things in there that might be helpful are things I've already gotten elsewhere by this point or attitudes I already hold. Also I'm not sure but was this written at the end of his life because he just seems like he's mostly grappling with his impending mortality and what it means to be alive and how one can live in the right way. I personally couldn't care less about being dead so I'm not sure that's something I found resonated with me, it might for others though. Also just a lot of determinism and mind/body duality in there neither of which I personally believe to be true so that didn't endear me to it. What I'm trying to say is I can see why this might help other people in their own thinking/learning to cope with being alive but it just didn't do it for me. It wasn't terrible but like I never wouldve picked this up on my own honestly.
Profile Image for Tharindu Dissanayake.
283 reviews505 followers
October 26, 2022
"People find pleasure in different ways. I find it in keeping my mind clear."

"a brief instant is all that is lost. For you can’t lose either the past or the future; how could you lose what you don’t have?"

If you read this book patiently, giving it enough time for the lightly mentioned yet very deeply meant to absorb thoroughly, you will find this to be one of the most enlightening experiences one will ever have. How Marcus Aurelius had thought of all this such a long time ago is unbelievable. I promise you, you will find wanting to highlight so many of it, if not everything.

"Human life.
Duration: momentary. Nature: changeable. Perception: dim. Condition of Body: decaying"

One problem I had with this book is to find the 'correct' edition (or translation). I originally purchased the one translated by George W. Chrystal, which seemed a bit complicated. Then after doing a bit of searching, I found there are some popular ones out there. So I found the one by Gregory Hays, which was much clearer. However, now that I'm gone through the entire thing, I will hopefully find the time to read the Chrystal's version some other time.

"You need to avoid certain things in your train of thought: everything random, everything irrelevant. And certainly everything self-important or malicious."

"we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own."
Profile Image for Riku Sayuj.
653 reviews7,022 followers
January 18, 2014

Marcus Aurelius must have been a prolific reader. He sure was a prolific note-taker, for these meditations are surely his study-notes(?- after all he was a 'philosopher' from age 12). I don't know of the publishing system at the time but where are the detailed footnotes and references? Marcus Aurelius is quite a wise man or at least he read enough wise men. He sure nailed it as far as boring a reader is concerned. No better way to establish your book's wisdom quotient.

I am being needlessly caustic of course(do note my rating above). The book is quotable in almost every page and is good to dip in to now and then, you might well find an aphorism that fits the mood just right every time. And that is why the book is a classic and so well-loved.

Don't read it as a scholar, you will end up like this reviewer. As I said earlier - He is like the wisdom of ages. Aargh :) Not that it is all bad - it is like reading an old uncles's notes after he has been preaching to you all your life.

Good that I am a stoic too. All ills are imaginary. Yes.

[ Or perhaps it was easier to be a Stoic while stoned: The emperor was a notorious opium user, starting each day, even while on military campaigns, by downing a nubbin of the stuff dissolved in his morning cup of wine. ]
Profile Image for Adam Dalva.
Author 8 books1,557 followers
June 19, 2020
It's, of course, completely ridiculous to rate a nearly 2000 year old journal by a Roman emperor who never intended it to be read. As a book experience, the repetition of Aurelius's thoughts can be frustrating (the excellent introduction in this volume provides context for it, and for the concept of stoicism), but I found his challenges, his every-day worries remarkably human. When they're good, they're incredible:

"At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: 'I have to go to work - as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I'm going to do what I was born for - the things I was brought into the world to do. Or is this what I was created for? T huddle under the blankets and stay warm?'
- But it's nicer here....
So you were born to feel 'nice?' Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don't you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you're not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren't you running to do what your nature demands?"
Profile Image for Valeriu Gherghel.
Author 6 books1,302 followers
April 28, 2023
„În textul lumii, nu fi un vers prost” .

Multă vreme, lucrarea lui Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121 - 180) a rămas necunoscută. Observațiile împăratului, scrise în limba greacă (și nu în latină), așa era moda printre nobili (Atena cucerise deja Roma), între anii 170 și 180, au fost tipărite abia în 1558, după un manuscris azi pierdut. Împăratul consemna sugestii, vorbea cu sine, reflecta, veghea. Nu a avut deloc vanitate de autor.

Aș menționa că Marcus Aurelius a scris mereu și mereu pentru un singur destinatar: pentru sine, așa cum arată însuși titlul meditațiilor sale: Ta eis heauton, Către mine însumi. Nu se gîndea la un cititor străin, la viitor și postumitate, caietul lui de însemnări îl însoțea pretutindeni, în tabere îndeosebi, prin „țara quazilor, aproape de rîul Granua” (adică în Panonia de azi), cum precizează într-un fragment (II: incipit, p.83), prin ținuturile triburilor germane, în Galia ori în Asia Mică. Împăratul controla riguros legiunile, taberele, castrele de pe granița imperiului, doar noaptea avea timp să noteze, într-un cort de soldat, la lumina precară a unui lucubrum, în puținul timp liber.

Marcus Aurelius a fost un gînditor stoic dublat de un cinic. Prefera franchețea cea mai brutală. Într-o notă, afirmă netulburat: „Iubirea se reduce la frecarea a două epiderme, la un spasm, la o secreție vîscoasă” (VI: 13, p.177).

În altă parte, împăratul scrie: „Înlătură setea de cărți, ca să nu mori cîrtind, ci dimpotrivă, cu adevărat mulţumit, senin şi recunoscător din toată inima zeilor!” (II: 3, p.85). Adaugă imediat: „Lasă deoparte cărţile! Nu te mai chinui! Nu îţi este dat...”. Nimic mai enigmatic decît aceste enunțuri lapidare. Moartea se cuvine întîmpinată în liniște.

În opinia filosofului, am impresia, cărțile reprezintă doar un prilej de a murmura împotriva autorilor și a gîndurilor exprimate de ei, împotriva morții binefăcătoare. Este preferabil, în consecință, să primești sfîrșitul cu deplină smerenie, cu sufletul împăcat. Cărțile nu dau un exemplu bun. În tragediile grecești, în Antigona, să zicem, nu găsim decît lamentații, împotrivire, lipsă de măsură, o frenezie zadarnică.

În concluzie, renunță la cărți, scapă de acest neajuns! În pofida prestigiosului îndemn, nu voi renunța să recitesc meditațiile celui mai onest dintre împărații romani.

P. S. În istoria sa, Edward Gibbon ironizează naivitatea lui Marcus Aurelius. Chiar la începutul însemnărilor, împăratul mulțumește zeilor că a avut parte de „o soţie [Annia Galeria Faustina] atît de ascultătoare, de afectuoasă, de simplă” (I: 17, p.81). Istoricul spune că, dacă ar fi citit acest pasaj, mulți cetățeni din Roma și-ar fi rîs în barbă...
Profile Image for فؤاد.
1,057 reviews1,726 followers
July 25, 2018
جداى از جملات فراوانى ش كه به فكرم فرو برد - و جملات فراوانى كه حوصله م رو سر برد - يه خاطره ى ويژه هم با اين كتاب دارم، كه بيشتر براى يادآورى شخصى ثبتش مى كنم.

يك روز داشتم كتاب رو توى شلوغى اتوبوس مى خوندم. و به اين فرازهاش رسيده بودم كه:
لوسيلا، وروس را به خاك سپرد، سپس نوبت خودش فرا رسيد. سكوندا، ماكسيموس را دفن كرد و آن گاه نوبت خودش شد. اپيتينكانوس، ديوتيموس را تا دم مرگ مشايعت كرد و بعد از چندى خود نيز جان سپرد... كجايند آن مردان هوشمند، آن مردان بصير، آن مردان پرشكوه؟ همگى مدت هاست كه از دنيا رفته اند... به سنگ نبشته هاى گورها بينديش: «آخرين فرد خاندانش». اجدادش چه رنج هايى را بر خود هموار كرده بودند تا وارثى داشته باشند، ولى سر انجام كسى بايد آخرين نفر مى بود و با مرگ او خاندانى از ميان رفته است.

و این قدر به این نهیب ها ادامه داد که حال و هواى روزهايى كه توى قبرستان قدم مى زدم و نوشته هاى سنگ قبرها رو مى خوندم و به محتويات فعلى شون فكر مى كردم، توى سرم زنده شد. يهو اين فكر به سرم افتاد كه اين همه آدم كه دور من راه ميرن و حرف ميزنن و عرقریزان د��بال زندگی شونن، هر كارى هم بكنن هر چى هم بشه، صد سال ديگه محتويات قبرستان ها رو تشكيل ميدن، و خود من هم مثل همه. از اتوبوس پياده شدم، توى پياده ى روى شلوغ راه رفتم و فكر كردم: من دارم بين زامبى ها حركت مى كنم، بين مرده هاى متحرك، و فقط يه فكر نبود، یه احساس زنده و شفاف بود. ماركوس اورليوس براى يه خواننده ش بعد از دو هزار سال يه شهود ترتيب داده بود.

اين حال شهود-مانند به مدت سه چهار دقيقه ادامه داشت، تا اين كه به مقصدم رسيدم و از بين جمعيت پياده رو بيرون رفتم، و اون حال هم از بين رفت.
Profile Image for Nika.
136 reviews140 followers
July 15, 2022
Meditations were written by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius either for himself or for his son and were not addressed to the wider public. His work, however, has become one of the most important texts representing Stoic philosophy. The ancient book is divided into twelve chapters. They embark on exploring such eternal themes as life and death, aspirations and fears, a place of an individual in society, personal priorities, and ways of achieving peace of mind. As to the last point, the crowned philosopher gives some practical recommendations that could be incorporated into our modern lives.
For example, Marcus Aurelius suggests that we concentrate on our inner lives while being open and well-disposed to the world. One should respect those who surround them but not connect their self-esteem and mental health with what others say.
It seems very relevant today when most of us are connected with so many different people via social media. Becoming dependent on the number of likes on our posts is relatively easy, is it not? However, we had better avoid this and should never measure our success only by such external factors.
It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.

Meditations deal extensively with the concept of death. Marcus Aurelius explains why one must not be afraid of inevitable demise.
Everything in this world is transient. All our accomplishments will sooner or later fade into oblivion. Our difficulties, no matter how cruel they seem to us, are not original. People in the past have already gone through similar ordeals, and the future will bring the same problems.
All the great people of the past (caesars, writers, sculptors) perished, as did ordinary people. The end is the same for everyone. Therefore, in a wider sense, it does not matter whether or not you have lived a long and prosperous life. I think the author expands on this topic because he wants to provide himself or his invisible reader with some sort of consolation. Life is not always fair. Sh*t happens even to virtuous people. We must accept things that we are not able to change and improve those that can be rectified. Whatever happens, we can choose how to respond to it. These reflections represent one of the tenets of Stoicism.

The man in charge of the great empire does not attach weight to the posthumous fame or slander that may haunt famous people both during their lifetime and after. Praise and calumny are equally considered vanities.
Instead, the author believes in public duty and the necessity of doing the right things and being decent under any circumstances. One should do what he or she thinks right to do without expecting gratitude in response. Kindness to others and worthy deeds give a sense of fulfillment, which means that they are more than enough to make us happy. He also warns against being judgmental toward others. How can we judge others if we are not perfect ourselves?
All these and many other ideas are discussed in the book in a much more subtle way. I have just tried to translate them into the modern language.

The key ideas get repetitive throughout the book. Some would probably prefer to read it with breaks. You can start reading it from any chapter. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading it almost in a single sitting. The writing style is accessible. The book makes us reflect on ourselves and the world around us.

In conclusion, I will let the author speak for himself so you may judge for yourself.

"The perfection of moral character consists in this, in passing every day as the last, and in being neither violently excited nor torpid nor playing the hypocrite."

“Confine yourself to the present.”

"Consider that as the heaps of sand piled on one another
hide the former sands, so in life the events which go before are soon covered by those which come after."

"Speak both in the senate and to every man, whoever he may be, appropriately, not with any affectation: use plain discourse."

"Now it is true that these [obstacles] may impede my action, but they are no impediments to my affects and disposition, which have the power of acting conditionally and changing: for the mind converts and changes every hindrance to its activity into an aid; and so that which is a hindrance is made a furtherance to an act; and that which is an obstacle on the road helps us on this road."
Profile Image for Jon Nakapalau.
4,931 reviews685 followers
June 5, 2023
“The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.” After reading this book I realized that there was a wealth of wisdom from some of the greatest minds in history; all I had to do was take the time to meet them through books. Excellent first book for those wanting to become acquainted with the Stoics.
Profile Image for Luís.
1,863 reviews520 followers
November 10, 2022
So, of course, this is not the most delicate philosophy. But I still enjoyed taking my time to soak up some thoughts and moved on to others more quickly.
I recommend reading only the Epitècte manual from which Marcus Aurelius' thoughts had drawn. In any case (since it seems that we should remember it), there is nothing innovative in the study of Marcus Aurelius; it is a question of integrated stoicism implemented by an individual with an extraordinary destiny.
However, we must not neglect the benefactor side of this philosophy and its "reference" side. Whether you subscribe to it, you must know it to go further in philosophy and life.
This work is classic and straightforward and opens the doors to great thoughts.
Profile Image for Henry Avila.
458 reviews3,241 followers
September 10, 2022
Marcus Aurelius the wise Roman Emperor some said the greatest to ever reign, from A.D. 161 to 180, his ideas seemed baffling in an era that was noted for glorifying the soldier, their frequent triumphant marches through the huge capital sparked frenzy enthusiastic joyous response from the public
honoring the vicious warrior conquering the barbarians , a strange mixture this human to be sure who felt the purpose of living is to help your fellow traveler find their destiny with the influence of stoicism the ancient Greek philosophy, Marcus Aurelius the man believed in it but others didn't the Roman Empire was full of violence wasn't noted for being a gentle society. You can imagine the difficulties which transpired, people accepted pain and suffering without complaint, the land of the strong endured disasters and continued. The unnatural way is quite strange as people want to breath fire in hell not be lambs heading to the slaughterhouse without putting on a good fight against such a notion, history has shown this propensity.The good Emperor to show the Romans how to serve the world, not rule for selfish reasons was the only proper thing though the concept would be almost impossible to realize then and for modern people failure to engulf this a puzzlement, quite understandable still, for nature is painful. . Yet few believed greed and ambition the ultimate climb to raw power has a magical temptation not able to be tamed by an old philosophy thousands of years old which the people today will neglect, truth like a sinking useless ship which is empty of valuables slowly turns over and falls to the sparse bottom never to arise again...No one cares the ultimate knowledge each will try to discover for themselves by opening a door, the truth may be inside the hall or not , set you free, or bring destruction, maybe a clue to what you seek....however only time the judge of wisdom prevails . The puzzlement of life is what gives flavor to the mystery and those striving to solve the enigma. A well thought peek, still unclear view of the fuzzy future which could arise, nevertheless a guess will ultimately...be just that a guess and this will always be the truth.No system is perfect for the simple reason the human race doesn't function in an error free state, mistakes continue the sad results cause immense destruction millions perish we look but can not stop the evil. In my thoughts the odd universe while a wondrous place to live and many secrets unknown need to be explored however it is too gigantic for total discovery.
Profile Image for Richard.
40 reviews116 followers
August 28, 2007
By today's standards, a bog-standard blog.

The only reason that this was preserved in the first place is that the author happened to be a Roman emperor. (That, and that ancient Rome didn't have LiveJournal.)

The only reason that Meditations is still being published today is that once a book gets labeled "classic," hardly anyone who reads it has the grapes to admit that it just wasn't that good. Well...the emperor has no clothes.
Profile Image for Mark  Porton.
385 reviews325 followers
November 27, 2022
Marcus Aurelius (121 – 180 CE) was the last in line of the five good Emperors (Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus).

Fun Fact 1: funny thing is, they were all adopted by their predecessor. The next Emperor after Marcus was Commodus, he was a son of Marcus and was a complete Muppet, nasty too – hence the start of a period of volatility after his death. An argument against hereditary ascension to a throne to be sure. This is not the only instance of hereditary ascension being a complete disaster in the Roman Empire.

Marcus Aurelius – didn’t he look curious?

Now Marcus was not only the guy in charge of the Roman Empire he was a Stoic Philosopher. I am a tad conflicted about an Emperor being a Stoic. In my mind a Stoic, is calm, happy with his or her lot, does not want for much, but on the other hand an Emperor is grab, grab, grab and kill, kill, kill. When he wrote this – he was on the frontline of the war with the Germanic Tribes in 170-180 CE. So that does not lie straight with me – however, he did not live lavishly.....apparently. But to be fair, he was part of a machine, and in charge of it – he could very well have been (and I believe it to be so) a decent, intelligent man.

Either way Meditations is a piece of work that endures to this day. Imagine that it still holds up. Meditations was first printed in 1559 CE; Marcus originally wrote this work in Greek – the language of the intelligentsia of the time. It is also believed; these writings were not intended to be published. He wrote these for himself. Yes, just he – and we have been gorking at these writings for centuries – academics and lay people alike – it is respected, it has stood up.

Don’t you think that is amazing?

You cannot finish a book like this – it needs to be kept on one’s bedside table, to be referred to every now and then, maybe scribble your own notes (while listening to Enya) and reflect. This is what I do with my favourite Stoic work by one of my heroes – Seneca – his work On the Shortness of Life is my favourite. My review of this classic can be found here https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9.... So, Seneca’s and Marcus’ books are in my Man Bag. Stick them in yours too!!!!! Or handbag of you are a lady 😊

Fun Fact 2: Seneca tutored young Nero, yeah yeah - he stuffed up there, but let's be stoic about this and lay it to one side.

Now the edition of Meditations I have in my possession, and totally recommend, is the Penguin Classics edition, translated with notes by Martin Hammond. The notes take up half of this publication and explain each of Marcus’ meditations. Yes, each one. What was happening, where he was and what he may have been thinking. Here is an example:

Book 6 (there are 10 – they are like chapters)

All that exists will soon change. Either it will be turned into vapour, if all matter is a unity, or it will be scattered in atoms.

Note 6.4 – ‘Turned into vapour’ reflects the Stoic conflagration of the universe (see notes 2.14.2 and 5.13). ‘Scattered into atoms’ is the Epicurean view

Now, with this type of format – you (if you read it) will be flipping back and forth, checking this and that, googling, researching getting bogged down and learning heaps. Or one can just read it and think.

There is so much here, written by a true GIANT of antiquity. I loved it and I love Marcus and Seneca.

5 Stars
Profile Image for Phyllis Eisenstadt.
48 reviews81 followers
December 19, 2015

Never before have I given a five star rating to a book of which I had only read 9%. However, this book is special in many ways, and if the beginning is any indication of the author's thoughts and reflections, it merits this rating. I eagerly await my future readings of this splendid work.

Like the Bible, it can be opened to any page, and the passage will resonate with most people at various times in their life. Each passage stands by itself and is not dependent upon what had preceded it. Therefore, although I am in the midst of reading two other books, I pick this one up sporadically, read a few passages, and am not confused about plot and characters. Although the book was written in a manner easy to understand, it is anything but simplistic; it is profound and replete with wisdom. Further, it should be read slowly so that the reader may absorb the words and delight in the meditations of Aurelius. I have done much highlighting in order to remember certain passages, and I know I will reread them throughout the years.

Once again, my friend Steve Sckenda has recommended quality literature to his GR friends for which I thank him most sincerely.

Phyllis Eisenstadt
Profile Image for Walter.
33 reviews8 followers
December 4, 2007
Another great influence in my life; this was the personal philosophical diary of the last "good emperor" of the Roman Empire. In this work Marcus Aurelius draws a picture Stoicism as a philosophy that I call "Buddhism with balls". It is a harsh self discipline that trains its practitioners to be champions (of a sort). Champions of what? Mastery of the self.

The heart of the book is that in order to make oneself free, they must train themselves to become indifferent to externals. The externals are those elements in life of which we have no or little control: our ethnicity, sex appeal, intelligence, lifespan, the opinions of others, etc. We must also become very aware of the one thing which we do have control over: our perceptions. Through harsh self analysis, training of the reason and self discipline, we can learn to take control of our perceptions, and in this way become impervious to all misfortune/suffering. Through this practice one cuts the puppet strings by which most people are jerked through life: pleasing others, seeking fame, sexual dominance, material goods, etc., and in the process also is freed of the suffering that stems from not having these false goals met.

This is a book that is extremely empowering. Even if some of the ideals and aims might be utterly impossible (but for a handful of great sages), they are worthy and worth striving towards.

Another aspect that I found interesting, was that here we are able to open a window into the life of a great and noble soul who was struggling to come to terms with the universe. We read the personal thoughts of the master of the civilized world, a man utterly alone and free of peers, who is grappling with the need to find meaning in life. His efforts and obvious agonies are touching. This is a deeply humane work. In many sections he has to repeatedly remind himself of the nature of death (that it is an essential and good part of nature), and often repeated are metaphors relating to the death of a child. These reminders are made very poignant when you understand that several of the Emperor's children (who he apparently loved very much) were taken by disease. This was the one understanding that he seemed to have the hardest time coming to terms with or accepting.

Profile Image for Jan-Maat.
1,549 reviews1,825 followers
September 26, 2021
Ah I had a far better review in my mind, but it has, like morning mist, cleared out from my mind leaving a jumble of words and impressions, so you will have to endure that, or skip to another GR update instead :)

The weaknesses of Marcus Aurelius's jottings and musings, his inconsistencies, vaguenesses, intellectual messiness, the lack of exploration of any particular idea in detail are it's strengths. There is a Marcus Aurelius for everyone, or perhaps for everyday of the year (Selections from the Thoughts of Marcus Aurelius for every day in the year) (and I suspect there are Marcus Aurelius day by day calendars). I wondered if at some point the real Marcus Aurelius would stand up, and of course he does, just like Spartacus at the end of the Stanley Kubrik film.

The work known variously as Meditations or the Golden Book was originally written in Greek and entitled 'To Himself', it is divided into twelve 'books' each perhaps fifteen or so printed pages in length. The first book is a listing of to whom and for what Marcus Aurelius is grateful - for things like his upbringing and character rather than that people pay their taxes and, by and large, obey the laws. The other eleven books don't have any thematic unity. At the end of the first book he writes: 'Among the Quadi, on the river Gran' this is the only indication of time and place in the entire work which is good from the point of view of approachability, Yes, you too, and me, have direct access to the personal musing of a Roman Emperor you can read his blogging, indeed in places almost his tweets, there is no barrier you can approach him with out prior knowledge - people have approached him with out prior knowledge for almost 2,000 years, so much so that I fear there is little novel here: be grateful, practise serenity, be kind to others, appreciate the order and structure of life, do your duty (like a Roman). The downside is you don't learn much about Marcus Aurelius, it is somehow so personal, private and interior that it has become indistinct and universal, suitable for fridge magnets or motivational posters anywhere.

I believe that formally Marcus was a a stoic, if his reflections in his book represent cutting edge stoic philosophy or the ponderings of a well educated individual of his day I don't know. In book eleven particularly he quotes Homer, Sophocles, Euripides and Plato, but he never mentions the famous Roman stoic Seneca. Perhaps Seneca was already forgotten by Aurelius' time or perhaps the issue of how to behave under the rule of an emperor was a bit too close to the bone for the Emperor.

As I mentioned in updates it reminded me in its stress on duty of what I have heard of the Bhagadvad Gita and I felt that Aurelius' : Worldnature, nature, world reason, cosmic purpose, gods, universal nature,mind of the universe, god... (a sample of the terms he seems to use for some kind of ordering principle in the universe) could all have been expressed as, or were reaching towards ideas of Dharma or Dao. Since this is a philosophical work, of sorts, or perhaps a religious one, I wondered if the translation was unhelpful - perhaps all these terms might have been rendered by one expression in the original, perhaps Logos (most famous now from the opening of the Gospel of Saint John), yet I think I read in the introduction that Marcus did use all these different terms even though, contextually they all appear to mean something similar if not identical.

Given this and the Tao Te Ching, I would have imagined that the Tao Te Ching was the one written by a canny Emperor, Marcus somehow often manages to sound like a harassed corporate drone forced to share a workbench with people who don't brush their teeth and who wash and change their clothes regularly - meaning once every nine weeks - (5:28) I could imagine it as the basis for a new US Sit-Com, maybe Aurelius: the customer service years, a slight change from his previous appearances in the films The Fall of the Roman Empire and Gladiator both of which downplay quite how odd Marcus' son the Emperor Commodus was .

Marcus says that he thinks praying for three hours a day is sufficient, but it was unclear to me quite what he would be praying to, his universe otherwise seems fairly deterministic and the gods a part of that as much as the fig trees, horses and people, perhaps his prayer was more his spiritual practise to encourage the serenity, kindness, and indifference to death that he speaks of rather than requests to the gods.

Walking wet pavements observing (stoically of course) the flashes of lightening over the sky, I wondered if death and being forgotten (everybody who ever knew you also dying) was such a constant preoccupation in these writing because it was a prospect that he really feared, as it has happened this has preserved his memory fairly effectively.

Everything he says is created for some duty (8:19) even if we accept that this is so and easily definable for his examples of a horse and a vine, the question that he does not address is what about an Emperor? Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero were all emperors and all acted as though they had different conceptions of duty. But Marcus while exposing his innermost thoughts does not want to reveal what he thought his own duty as an Emperor was. For me it was not a case of Howards end is no the landing but Marcus Aurelius was on the dusty shelf, picked up for two GBP I don't recall when, probably in disreputable company.

At the same time I can not be completely comfortable with him. Mine [my concern], to be in friendship and charity with all men (11:13) he writes while fighting wars against the Marcomanni, Quadi and Samatians, so friendship and charity with not quite all men, I flicked through the relevant pages of Empires and Barbarians and saw that war began because they asked if they could enter the empire and had been refused, perhaps I am missing something here, also this was a period when punishments for crimes became harsher for those of lower social status, his self cultivation and personal serenity did not come into conflict with a conception of imperial duty that seems in practise to have been heavy handed (kindness is irresistible but he is partial to the decapitation of his enemies), perhaps for him there was no contradiction, he was no Ashokha (he says somewhere that you either have to improve people or put up with them, he does not seem to have tried improving them, that was not his duty). But his writings don't clarify his approach to authority and rule to me .

I see here Marcus Aurelius for business: Meditations: Thoughts for Corporate Dominance this from the man who wrote (5:33) "all that men set their hearts on in this life is vanity, corruption and trash..."
Profile Image for Krishna Chaitanya.
68 reviews121 followers
October 7, 2020

"If you want to gain control of pain,
open up this blessed book
and enter deep within it.
Its wealth of philosophy will bring you
to see with ease all the future,
the present, and the past,
and you will see that joy and distress
have no more power than smoke." - One of Marcus' Greek readers.
Profile Image for Infinite Jen.
83 reviews293 followers
March 26, 2023
Why do I always posit bizarre questions at the beginning of every review? Well, have you ever, after many talks with a chemist and micro-dosing guru, finally persuaded yourself that you’d be just peachy with pin-balling some spirit molecules around in your brain casket? Only to later profane against your prior optimism by leaping up, cleaving the coffee table with the blunted knife of your shins, all while struggling to quell the erratic gestures which are presently animating your limbs? Why? Well, if every time you hold your hands out, your fingers ejaculate pyrotechnic jets of DMT, the only sensible course of action is to shield your loved ones from harm by convulsing as if gripped by an invisible straight jacket and roil your way towards the balcony with the conspicuous golden thread. Why? Because it’s obviously Ariadne’s thread, you philistine! Your soul is attached to it, and your buoyant spirit, while great at making friends, is navigationally challenged and will breach the atmosphere to explode soundlessly in the vacuum of deep space if not for the cement shoes of your corporeality. At a time like this, a powerful aphorism could save you.

The following apocryphal tale is how the last emperor of the Pax Romana riveted my stray quintessence back to my pineal gland using the pithy wisdom of The Meditations as adhesive. Giving me the incredible strength required to consume an entire box of grape popsicles, which in turn, carried me away from the jaws of psychosis on high fructose wings.

Below the balcony. Street level. A man of anachronistic manner and dress watches my futile attempt to collapse a probabilistic cloud of electrons back into the wave function of its sebaceous prison.

Me: “Think of the menstrual cramps you’ll miss!”

Soul: “....”

Stranger: “You are a little soul carrying about a corpse, as Epictetus used to say.”

Me: “Wait, are y-“

Stranger: “How ridiculous and how strange to be surprised at anything which happens in life.”

Me: “You have to admit that some things are difficult to prepare for, and the shock of their oblique assault causes one to writhe as if restrained in the manner of Houdini and seek to rescue their soul from an eternity spent conversing with molecular hydrogen. Can’t you help me?! You seem so nonplussed. So.. stoic!”

Stranger: “How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.”

Me: “You’re right. What would my personal hero (Dr. Hannibal Lecter) do at a time like this? If he can bite the faces off rude corrections officers without his pulse rising above normal, surely I can manage this trivial ordeal.”

Stranger: “Regain your senses, call yourself back, and once again wake up.”

Me: *Deep centering breath*

Stranger: “Now that you realize that only dreams were troubling you, view this ‘reality’ as you view your dreams.”

Me: “Yes. Like the one with Dita von Teese and the Shibari Rope Bondage based on the quantum weirdness of spinnorial matter. If I spin her just so, she will arrive back at her original configuration only have 720-degrees of rotation!”

Stranger: “Do not indulge in dreams of having what you have not, but reckon up the chief of the blessings you do possess, and then thankfully remember how you would crave for them if they were not yours.”

Me: “Damnit.”

Stranger: “Consider that as the heaps of sand piled on one another hide the former sands, so in life the events that go before are soon covered by those that come after.”

And that’s how I met Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus. What a guy.

This is another very important book to me. It’s message, contrary to conflations of stoicism with pure apathy, is this: The narrow band of experience, which comprises the entire trajectory of your life, is bracketed by voids of unknown dimensions. So in every sense, what you do here, in this blip of astronomical time, matters. Possessing this knowledge, how should we behave in the face of life’s travails? Despair and give ourselves to the comforting cowardice of nihilism? Or bear, with dignity, our one and only experiential opportunity in this absurd system?

This book contains the rumination’s of an emperor, a philosopher, and, most pertinent to our collective struggles, a fellow mortal, aware of their paltry chronological endowment. Trying to live well and love fully. Seeking to define goodness and hone the pursuit of it as earnestly as possible. Espousing the virtues of self reliance, of facing hardship with equanimity, of treating others with respect and compassion. Stressing the importance of habituating your thoughts in ways that are productive, rather than adopting fatalistic narratives. It’s a panacea against carping and catastrophizing. A set of conceptual triangulations to steady you in times when you feel unmoored. Succor in menacing shadow of life’s impermanence.

It is fashionable to consider all works of philosophy to be stodgy and concerned with matters so esoteric that little practical value can be derived them. But this book chiefly concerns (by heavy dent of the Roman preoccupation with pragmatism, one imagines) the concrete ways in which a life of the mind can provide a bulwark against turmoil and tragedy. I encourage you to give it a chance, you might find yourself surprised by the power of ideas, and the fortitude of a life well lived.
Profile Image for Gabrielle.
996 reviews1,133 followers
January 7, 2020
Marcus Aurelius was a Stoic, a philosophy that is all about accepting the present moment as it is, and not letting the struggle to get away from pain and to acquire pleasure dictate our lives. This philosophy has always appealed to me, and obviously there are many similarities with Zen Buddhism to be found in Stoicism. This little book is the equivalent of a little diary one would keep on their nightstand, where they would scribble thoughts that they want to remind themselves of, and as the title implies, insight gained from looking deep into oneself.

While it can get a bit repetitive sometimes, and can, at times, feel like ideas we’ve heard a million times before, there is something profoundly soothing and inspiring in Marcus Aurelius’ little maxims: they are a refreshing reminder that leading a life of simplicity and compassion can be a much more rewarding life than one based on greed and superficial, fleeting satisfactions. If it feels oddly familiar, it’s probably because people have been quoting Marcus Aurelius for hundreds of years!

He wrote most of these late in his life, and there are plenty of reflections on death in these pages: that is certainly explained in part by how old he was when he took up the pen, but it was also an important part of Stoic philosophy, to be aware that life is finite, and that we should therefore learn to be satisfied with how it is right now, as it could be gone tomorrow.

When you consider the tone of the thoughts collected in “Meditations”, it can be surprising to remember that they were written down by the most powerful man of the Western world. Would powerful men today write so earnestly about dignity, thoughtfulness, modesty and honesty? Would they encourage people to truly look at themselves and give up caring about the things that are outside of our control? I don’t know. But Marcus was very aware of his humanity, and therefore, that even if he was the Emperor, he was fundamentally not all that different from other people.

Just like when I read Cicero last year (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...), I finished this book wishing this was still a mandatory text: it's not perfect, but there is some important wisdom in here, and I wish more people were exposed to this kind of writing. And it is still incredibly relevant, and applicable to many daily life situations.

A very good book to start the new year (and decade!) with.

"If someone can prove me wrong and show me my mistake in any thought or action, I shall gladly change. I seek the truth, which never harmed anyone: the harm is to persist in one's own self-deception and ignorance."

"Perfection of character is this: to live each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, without apathy, without pretense."
Profile Image for Sara.
Author 1 book488 followers
February 11, 2020
Written between the years 170 and 180 while on campaign, Marcus Aurelius' work Meditations is one of the most enduring works of philosophy ever penned by man. I read this book very slowly, in an attempt to absorb the wisdom and instruction within its pages, but it will take more than one reading to do that, for every word has meaning and impact. Why is this not required reading in our schools? It could easily teach our children everything they will ever need to know to navigate life well and live in happiness and peace.

Just a few of the more poignant and meaningful quotations from this work (although I could have abandoned these and selected ten others which were just as good):

1. Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.

2.The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.

3.Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.

4. Dwell upon the beauty of life. Watch the stars and see yourself running with them.

5. If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.

6. Our life is what our thoughts make it.

7. It is not death a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.

8. If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it.

9. How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.

10. How ridiculous and how strange to be surprised at anything which happens in life.

That Marcus Aurelius was one of the “five good emperors” does not surprise me. I had never thought that I would have found any joy in being a stoic, but I believe living your life according to the precepts he puts forward would bring both joy and peace. I will be re-reading The Meditations over the course of this year, one panel a night before going to bed seems like a good practice, to remind myself, as Marcus Aurelius was reminding himself, that a good life is found internally, not externally.
Profile Image for Valeriu Gherghel.
Author 6 books1,302 followers
May 4, 2023
Cînd Marcus Aurelius își nota gîndurile disparate, el se gîndea, de fapt, la un singur om: la el însuși. Împăratul nu a intenționat niciodată să scrie o carte propriu-zisă și pentru un public larg, precum Seneca, precum prietenul Fronto. Și cu atît mai puțin să o publice.

Însemnările lui au avut din capul locului un singur destinatar. Și acest destinatar nu a fost altul decît Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus (121 - 180). N-a voit să fie învățătorul altcuiva. N-a sfătuit pe nimeni. Nu a impus altora cum să-și trăiască viața. A scris pentru sine, așa cum arată titlul meditațiilor sale: Ta eis heauton [hypomnemata]: Gînduri către sine însuși. Deși titlul nu-i aparține.

Scria noaptea, în puținul timp rămas liber, pe cîmpul de luptă, în cortul de ostaș, luminat precar, în lungile și obositoarele campanii purtate la granițele imperiului, prin „țara cvazilor, pe malul rîului Granua” (adică în Panonia de azi), cum precizează într-un rînd (I: 17), prin ținuturile triburilor germane, în Galia ori în Asia Mică. Nu a avut deloc vanitate de autor. Vreme de mai bine de un mileniu, lucrarea lui a fost foarte puțin cunoscută. O menționează doar Arethas din Caesarea în secolul X.

Observațiile împăratului, scrise în limba greacă (și nu în latină), între anii 170 și 180, au fost tipărite abia în 1558, după un manuscris azi pierdut.

Prin urmare, îndemnul „Înlătură setea de cărți, ca să nu mori cîrtind!” este adresat numai și numai sieși. El poate fi interpretat, desigur, în multe feluri.

Ar fi, mă gîndesc, strigătul de exasperare al unui cititor pragmatic, care înțelege dintr-o dată puținul folos adus de cărți. Ar reprezenta astfel un reproș adus omului care citește în loc să ia parte la viața publică. Reproșul este perfect stoic. Seninătatea, apatheia nu se obțin prin răsfoirea cărților, ci prin exercițiu spiritual, prin meditație asiduă la destin, natură și moarte. În concluzie, convingerea lui Marcus Aurelius pare să fi fost aceasta: cînd te confrunți cu bătrînețea, cu fragilitatea ființei umane, cu moartea, cărțile (și lectura) sînt de puțin folos. Seneca a afirmat același lucru: e mult mai util să meditezi la un scurt pasaj decît să răsfoiești zilnic mormane de cărți. Ca filosof din stirpea stoicilor, împăratul Marcus Aurelius nu a iubit prea mult cărțile, dar nu cred că a fost un bibliofob veritabil...

Adaug un singur citat despre nimicnicia tuturor lucrurilor pe care le prețuim fără temei:

„După cum ne formăm reprezentări despre felurile de mîncare, gîndind că acesta este cadavrul unui peşte, acesta – al unei păsări sau al unui porc, şi, de asemenea, că vinul de Falern este sucul stors din struguri şi că toga pretextă e lînă de oaie impregnată cu sînge de scoică…, tot aşa trebuie să procedăm toată viaţa şi, cînd ne reprezentăm lucrurile ca prea demne de încredere, trebuie să le dezgolim, să le surprindem mica lor valoare şi să înlăturăm pretinsa credibilitate datorită căreia erau considerate de valoare. Periculoasă amăgire este trufia şi, cînd socoteşti mai degrabă că te ocupi de lucruri importante, atunci mai ales eşti victima iluziei” (VI: 13).

P. S. De la stoici, probabil, a învățat E. M. Cioran lecția deprecierii lucrurilor sfinte: „Sărutul nu e decît amestecul a două salive”.
Profile Image for Piyangie.
519 reviews416 followers
September 16, 2022
The thoughts of Marcus Aurelius recorded as private notes to himself and now widely known as Meditations shows us what a deep thinker and a great philosopher he has been. It is of little surprise that he had been one of the "five good Emperors" since he surely must have ruled the Empire by the principles reflected in his meditations. But it is surprising why no one has given heed to these advisory notes he is so painstakingly recorded since he is the last of the five good Emperors. It is strange how often good and just advice is overlooked.

The book expresses profound thoughts on self-discipline and self-enlightenment; the conduct of one's self towards society, and nature. It is a thought-provoking book. Many of his ideas correspond with the tents of religions practiced in the world today.

Meditations is the reflection of a great man who has lived nearly two thousand years ago. But still, they ring so true. This shows that mankind and human nature have not advanced much over the years. Human thinking and needs are not so different from the time of Aurelius.

Aurelius's ideas are quite interesting and advisory. I enjoyed them. But I was a little put off by the manner in which they were presented. It is very matter of fact. Well, it can't be helped that the book is so presented, for these private thoughts of Aurelius were recorded as notes to himself. And so the published work corresponds to the initial style of how they were recorded. Nevertheless, it was a bit difficult for me to connect with this style, and so it did prevent me to some extent from going deeper into his thoughts and connecting wholly with them. Yet I believe that this small work is something which everyone must read at some point, for words of wisdom never fails in their allure.
Profile Image for Sawsan.
1,002 reviews
July 31, 2022
التأملات كتبها الامبراطور والفيلسوف الروماني ماركوس أوريليوس, من الفلاسفة الرواقيين وعُرف بالفيلسوف الجالس على العرش, حكم الامبراطورية الرومانية ما بين عامي 161- 180م
دَون تأملاته, وعرض آراؤه عن الحياة والأخلاق وتهذيب النفس وفضائل الحكمة والعدالة, وأيضا فكره وأسلوبه في الحكم والإدارة
من أقواله " إذا ما استطاع إنسان أن يثبت لي أني على خطأ ويبين لي خطئي في أي فكرة أو فعل, فسوف أغير نفسي بكل سرور, إن أريد إلا الحق وهو مطلب لم يضر أي إنسان قط, إنما الضرر هو أن يصر المرء على جهله ويستمر في خداع ذاته"
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