Meditations 52

52 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.

MEDITATIONS

By Marcus Aurelius

APPENDIX (Part 1)

CORRESPONDENCE OF M. AURELIUS ANTONINUS AND M. CORNELIUS FRONTO[1]

M. CORNELIUS FRONTO was a Roman by descent, but of provincial birth, being native to Cirta, in Numidia. Thence he migrated to Rome in the reign of Hadrian, and became the most famous rhetorician of his day. As a pleader and orator he was counted by his contemporaries hardly inferior to Tully himself, and as a teacher his aid was sought for the noblest youths of Rome. To him was entrusted the education of M. Aurelius and of his colleague L. Verus in their boyhood; and he was rewarded for his efforts by a seat in the Senate and the consular rank (A.D. 143). By the exercise of his profession he became wealthy; and if he speaks of his means as not great,[2] he must be comparing his wealth with the grandees of Rome, not with the ordinary citizen.

Before the present century nothing was known of the works of Fronto, except a grammatical treatise; but in 1815 Cardinal Mai published a number of letters and some short essays of Fronto, which he had discovered in a palimpsest at Milan. Other parts of the same MS. he found later in the Vatican, the whole being collected.

[1] References are made to the edition of Naber, Leipzig (Trübner), 1867.

[2] Ad Verum imp. Aur. Caes., ii, 7. and edited in the year 1823.

We now possess parts of his correspondence with Antoninus Pius, with M. Aurelius, with L. Verus, and with certain of his friends, and also several rhetorical and historical fragments. Though none of the more ambitious works of Fronto have survived, there are enough to give proof of his powers. Never was a great literary reputation less deserved. It would be hard to conceive of anything more vapid than the style and conception of these letters; clearly the man was a pedant without imagination or taste. Such indeed was the age he lived in, and it is no marvel that he was like to his age. But there must have been more in him than mere pedantry; there was indeed a heart in the man, which Marcus found, and he found also a tongue which could speak the truth. Fronto's letters are by no means free from exaggeration and laudation, but they do not show that loathsome flattery which filled the Roman court. He really admires what he praises, and his way of saying so is not unlike what often passes for criticism at the present day. He is not afraid to reprove what he thinks amiss; and the astonishment of Marcus at this will prove, if proof were needed, that he was not used to plain dealing. "How happy I am," he writes, "that my friend Marcus Cornelius, so distinguished as an orator and so noble as a man, thinks me worth praising and blaming."[3] In another place he deems himself blest because Pronto had taught him to speak the truth[4] although the context shows him to be speaking of expression, it is still a point in favour of Pronto. A sincere heart is better than literary taste; and if Fronto had not done his duty by the young prince, it is not easy to understand the friendship which remained between them up to the last.

[3] Ad M. Caes iii. 17

[4] Ad M. Caes iii. 12

An example of the frankness which was between them is given by a difference they had over the case of Herodes Atticus. Herodes was a Greek rhetorician who had a school at Rome, and Marcus Aurelius was among his pupils. Both Marcus and the Emperor Antoninus had a high opinion of Herodes; and all we know goes to prove he was a man of high character and princely generosity. When quite young he was made administrator of the free cities in Asia, nor is it surprising to find that he made bitter enemies there; indeed, a just ruler was sure to make enemies. The end of it was that an Athenian deputation, headed by the orators Theodotus and Demostratus, made serious accusations against his honour. There is no need to discuss the merits of the case here; suffice it to say, Herodes succeeded in defending himself to the satisfaction of the emperor. Pronto appears to have taken the delegates' part, and to have accepted a brief for the prosecution, urged to some extent by personal considerations; and in this cause Marcus Aurelius writes to Fronto as follows:—

'AURELIUS CÆSAR to his friend FRONTO, greeting.[5]'I know you have often told me you were anxious to find how you might best please me. Now is the time; now you can increase my love towards you, if it can be increased. A trial is at hand, in which people seem likely not only to hear your speech with pleasure, but to see your indignation with impatience. I see no one who dares give you a hint in the matter; for those who are less friendly, prefer to see you act with some inconsistency; and those who are more friendly, fear to seem too friendly to your opponent if they should dissuade you from your accusation; then again, in case you have prepared something neat for the occasion, they cannot endure to rob you of your harangue by silencing you. Therefore, whether you think me a rash counsellor, or a bold boy, or too kind to your opponent, not because I think it better, I will offer my counsel with some caution. But why have I said, offer my counsel? No, I demand it from you; I demand it boldly, and if I succeed, I promise to remain under your obligation. What? you will say if I am attackt, shall I not pay tit for tat? Ah, but you will get greater glory, if even when attackt you answer nothing. Indeed, if he begins it, answer as you will and you will have fair excuse; but I have demanded of him that he shall not begin, and I think I have succeeded. I love each of you according to your merits and I know that lie was educated in the house of P. Calvisius, my grandfather, and that I was educated by you; therefore I am full of anxiety that this most disagreeable business shall be managed as honourably as possible. I trust you may approve my advice, for my intention you will approve. At least I prefer to write unwisely rather than to be silent unkindly.'

[5] Ad M. Caes ii., 2.

Fronto replied, thanking the prince for his advice, and promising that he will confine himself to the facts of the case. But he points out that the charges brought against Herodes were such, that they can hardly be made agreeable; amongst them being spoliation, violence, and murder. However, he is willing even to let some of these drop if it be the prince's pleasure. To this Marcus returned the following answer:--[6] 'This one thing, my dearest Fronto, is enough to make me truly grateful to you, that so far from rejecting my counsel, you have even approved it. As to the question you raise in your kind letter, my opinion is this: all that concerns the case which you are supporting must be clearly brought forward; what concerns your own feelings, though you may have had just provocation, should be left unsaid.' The story does credit to both. Fronto shows no loss of temper at the interference, nor shrinks from stating his case with frankness; and Marcus, with forbearance remarkable in a prince, does not command that his friend be left unmolested, but merely stipulates for a fair trial on the merits of the case.

[6] Ad. M. Caes., iii. 5.

Another example may be given from a letter of Fronto's[7] Here is something else quarrelsome and querulous. I have sometimes found fault with you in your absence somewhat seriously in the company of a few of my most intimate friends: at times, for example, when you mixt in society with a more solemn look than was fitting, or would read books in the theatre or in a banquet; nor did I absent myself from theatre or banquet when you did.[8] Then I used to call you a hard man, no good company, even disagreeable, sometimes, when anger got the better of me. But did any one else in the same banquet speak against you, I could not endure to hear it with equanimity. Thus it was easier for me to say something to your disadvantage myself, than to hear others do it; just as I could more easily bear to chastise my daughter Gratia, than to see her chastised by another.'

[7] Ad. M. Caes., iv. 12.

[8] The text is obscure

The affection between them is clear from every page of the correspondence. A few instances are now given, which were written at different periods.

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Meditations 55

55 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 asContinue reading “Meditations 55”

Meditations 54

54 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 asContinue reading “Meditations 54”

Meditations 53

53 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 asContinue reading “Meditations 53”

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