Meditations 13

13 Meditations (Medieval Greek: Τὰ εἰς ἑαυτόν, romanized: Ta eis he'auton, lit. 'things to one's self') 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.

Marcus Aurelius wrote the 12 books of the Meditations in Koine Greek as a source for his own guidance and self-improvement. It is possible that large portions of the work were written at Sirmium, where he spent much time planning military campaigns from 170 to 180. Some of it was written while he was positioned at Aquincum on campaign in Pannonia, because internal notes tell us that the first book was written when he was campaigning against the Quadi on the river Granova (modern-day Hron) and the second book was written at Carnuntum.  

It is unlikely that Marcus Aurelius ever intended the writings to be published. The work has no official title, so "Meditations" is one of several titles commonly assigned to the collection. These writings take the form of quotations varying in length from one sentence to long paragraphs.


By Marcus Aurelius


XI. Consider with thyself how man, and by what part of his, is joined unto God, and how that part of man is affected, when it is said to be diffused. There is nothing more wretched than that soul, which in a kind of circuit compasseth all things, searching (as he saith) even the very depths of the earth; and by all signs and conjectures prying into the very thoughts of other men's souls; and yet of this, is not sensible, that it is sufficient for a man to apply himself wholly, and to confine all his thoughts and cares to the tendance of that spirit which is within him, and truly and really to serve him. His service doth consist in this, that a man keep himself pure from all violent passion and evil affection, from all rashness and vanity, and from all manner of discontent, either in regard of the gods or men. For indeed whatsoever proceeds from the gods, deserves respect for their worth and excellency; and whatsoever proceeds from men, as they are our kinsmen, should by us be entertained, with love, always; sometimes, as proceeding from their ignorance, of that which is truly good and bad, (a blindness no less, than that by which we are not able to discern between white and black:) with a kind of pity and compassion also.

XII. If thou shouldst live three thousand, or as many as ten thousands of years, yet remember this, that man can part with no life properly, save with that little part of life, which he now lives: and that which he lives, is no other, than that which at every instant he parts with. That then which is longest of duration, and that which is shortest, come both to one effect. For although in regard of that which is already past there may be some inequality, yet that time which is now present and in being, is equal unto all men. And that being it which we part with whensoever we die, it doth manifestly appear, that it can be but a moment of time, that we then part with. For as for that which is either past or to come, a man cannot be said properly to part with it. For how should a man part with that which he hath not? These two things therefore thou must remember. First, that all things in the world from all eternity, by a perpetual revolution of the same times and things ever continued and renewed, are of one kind and nature; so that whether for a hundred or two hundred years only, or for an infinite space of time, a man see those things which are still the same, it can be no matter of great moment. And secondly, that that life which any the longest liver, or the shortest liver parts with, is for length and duration the very same, for that only which is present, is that, which either of them can lose, as being that only which they have; for that which he hath not, no man can truly be said to lose.

XIII. Remember that all is but opinion and conceit, for those things are plain and apparent, which were spoken unto Monimus the Cynic; and as plain and apparent is the use that may be made of those things, if that which is true and serious in them, be received as well as that which is sweet and pleasing.

(Cynics, a school of philosophers, founded by Antisthenes. Their texts were a kind of caricature of Socraticism. Nothing was good but virtue, nothing bad but vice. The Cynics repudiated all civil and social claims, and attempted to return to what they called a state of nature. Many of them were very disgusting in their manners.)
(Antisthenes of Athens, founder of the sect of Cynic philosophers, and an opponent of Plato, 5th century B.C Antoninus Pius, 15th Roman Emperor, 138-161 AD. one of the best princes that ever mounted a throne.)
XIV. A man's soul doth wrong and disrespect itself first and especially, when as much as in itself lies it becomes an aposteme, and as it were an excrescency of the world, for to be grieved and displeased with anything that happens in the world, is direct apostacy from the nature of the universe; part of which, all particular natures of the world, are. Secondly, when she either is averse from any man, or led by contrary desires or affections, tending to his hurt and prejudice; such as are the souls of them that are angry. Thirdly, when she is overcome by any pleasure or pain. Fourthly, when she doth dissemble, and covertly and falsely either doth or saith anything. Fifthly, when she doth either affect or endeavour anything to no certain end, but rashly and without due ratiocination and consideration, how consequent or inconsequent it is to the common end. For even the least things ought not to be done, without relation unto the end; and the end of the reasonable creatures is, to follow and obey him, who is the reason as it were, and the law of this great city, and ancient commonwealth.

(Aposteme, tumour, excrescence.)

XV. The time of a man's life is as a point; the substance of it ever flowing, the sense obscure; and the whole composition of the body tending to corruption. His soul is restless, fortune uncertain, and fame doubtful; to be brief, as a stream so are all things belonging to the body; as a dream, or as a smoke, so are all that belong unto the soul. Our life is a warfare, and a mere pilgrimage. Fame after life is no better than oblivion. What is it then that will adhere and follow? Only one thing, philosophy. And philosophy doth consist in this, for a man to preserve that spirit which is within him, from all manner of contumelies and injuries, and above all pains or pleasures; never to do anything either rashly, or feignedly, or hypocritically: wholly to depend from himself and his own proper actions: all things that happen unto him to embrace contentedly, as coming from Him from whom he himself also came; and above all things, with all meekness and a calm cheerfulness, to expect death, as being nothing else but the resolution of those elements, of which every creature is composed. And if the elements themselves suffer nothing by this their perpetual conversion of one into another, that dissolution, and alteration, which is so common unto all, why should it be feared by any? Is not this according to nature? But nothing that is according to nature can be evil.

Whilst I was at Carnuntum.

(Carnuntum, a town on the Danube in Upper Pannonia.)

BOOK II "Both to frequent" (4). Gr. τὸ μή, C. conjectures τὸ μὲ. The
text is probably right: "I did not frequent public lectures, and I was
taught at home."

VI Idiots.... philosophers (9). The reading is doubtful, but the meaning seems to be: "simple and unlearned men"

XII "Claudius Maximus" (15). The reading of the Palatine MS. (now lost) was paraklhsiz Maximon, which C. supposes to conceal the letters kl as an abbreviation of Claudius.

XIII "Patient hearing... He would not" (16). C. translates his conjectural reading epimonon ollan. on proapsth Stich suggests a reading with much the same sense: .....epimonon all antoi "Strict and rigid dealing" (16). C. translates tonvn (Pal. MS.) as though from tonoz, in the sense of "strain." "rigour." The reading of other MSS. tonvn is preferable.

XIII "Congiaries" (13). dianomais, "doles."

XIV "Cajeta" (17). The passage is certainly corrupt. C. spies a reference to Chryses praying by the sea-shore in the Illiad, and supposes M. Aurelius to have done the like. None of the emendations suggested is satisfactory. At § XV. Book II. is usually reckoned to begin. BOOK II III. "Do, soul" (6). If the received reading be right, it must be sarcastic; but there are several variants which show how unsatisfactory it is. C. translates "en gar o bioz ekasty so par eanty", which I do not understand. The sense required is: "Do not violence to thyself, for thou hast not long to use self-respect. Life is not (v. 1. so long for each, and this life for thee is all but done."

X. "honour and credit do proceed" (12). The verb has dropt out of the text, but C. has supplied one of the required meaning.

XI. "Consider," etc. (52). This verb is not in the Greek, which means: "(And reason also shows) how man, etc."

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