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 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 2)

To MY MASTER.[9]

'This is how I have past the last few days. My sister was suddenly seized with an internal pain, so violent that I was horrified at her looks; my mother in her trepidation on that account accidentally bruised her side on a corner of the wall; she and we were greatly troubled about that blow. For myself; on going to rest I found a scorpion in my bed; but I did not lie down upon him, I killed him first. If you are getting on better, that is a consolation. My mother is easier now, thanks be to God. Good-bye, best and sweetest master. My lady sends you greeting.'

[9] Ad M. Caes., v. 8.

[10]'What words can I find to fit my had luck, or how shall I upbraid as it deserves the hard constraint which is laid upon me? It ties me fast here, troubled my heart is, and beset by such anxiety; nor does it allow me to make haste to my Fronto, my life and delight, to be near him at such a moment of ill-health in particular, to hold his hands, to chafe gently that identical foot, so far as may be done without discomfort, to attend him in the bath, to support his steps with my arm.'

[10] Ad M. Caes., i. 2.

[11]'This morning I did not write to you, because I heard you were better, and because I was myself engaged in other business, and I cannot ever endure to write anything to you unless with mind at ease and untroubled and free. So if we are all right, let me know: what I desire, you know, and how properly I desire it, I know. Farewell, my master, always in every chance first in my mind, as you deserve to be. My master, see I am not asleep, and I compel myself to sleep, that you may not be angry with me. You gather I am writing this late at night.'

[11] iii. 21.

[12]'What spirit do you suppose is in me, when I remember how long it is since I have seen you, and why I have not seen you! and it may be I shall not see you for a few days yet, while you are strengthening yourself; as you must. So while you lie on the sick-bed, my spirit also will lie low anti, whenas,[13] by God's mercy you shall stand upright, my spirit too will stand firm, which is now burning with the strongest desire for you. Farewell, soul of your prince, your pupil.'

[14]O my dear Fronto, most distinguished Consul! I yield, you have conquered: all who have ever loved before, you have conquered out and out in love's contest. Receive the victor's wreath; and the herald shall proclaim your victory aloud before your own tribunal: "M. Cornelius Fronto, Consul, wins, and is crowned victor in the Open International Love-race."[15] But beaten though I may be, I shall neither slacken nor relax my own zeal. Well, you shall love me more than any man loves any other man; but I, who possess a faculty of loving less strong, shall love you more than any one else loves you; more indeed than you love yourself. Gratia and I will have to fight for it; I doubt I shall not get the better of her. For, as Plautus says, her love is like rain, whose big drops not only penetrate the dress, but drench to the very marrow.'

[12] Ad M. Caes., iii. 19.

[13] The writer sometimes uses archaisms such as _quom_, which I render 'whenas'.  

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

[15] The writer parodies the proclamation at the Greek games; the words also are Greek.

Marcus Aurelius seems to have been about eighteen years of age when the correspondence begins, Fronto being some thirty years older.[16] The systematic education of the young prince seems to have been finisht, and Pronto now acts more as his adviser than his tutor. He recommends the prince to use simplicity in his public speeches, and to avoid affectation.[17] Marcus devotes his attention to the old authors who then had a great vogue at Rome: Ennius, Plautus, Nævius, and such orators as Cato and Gracchus.[18] Pronto urges on him the study of Cicero, whose letters, he says, are all worth reading.

[16] From internal evidence: the letters are not arranged in order of time. See Naher's _Prolegomena_, p. xx. Foll.

[17] Ad M. Caes., iii. x.

[18] Ad M. Caes ii. 10,; iii. 18,; ii. 4.

When he wishes to compliment Marcus he declares one or other of his letters has the true Tullian ring. Marcus gives his nights to reading when he ought to be sleeping. He exercises himself in verse composition and on rhetorical themes.

'It is very nice of you,' he writes to Fronto,[19] 'to ask for my hexameters; I would have sent them at once if I had them by me. The fact is my secretary, Anicetus-you know who I mean-did not pack up any of my compositions for me to take away with me. He knows my weakness; he was afraid that if I got hold of them I might, as usual, make smoke of them. However, there was no fear for the hexameters. I must confess the truth to my master: I love them. I study at night, since the day is taken up with the theatre. I am weary of an evening, and sleepy in the daylight, and so I don't do much. Yet I have made extracts from sixty books, five volumes of them, in these latter days. But when you read remember that the "sixty" includes plays of Novius, and farces, and some little speeches of Scipio; don't be too much startled at the number. You remember your Polemon; but I pray you do not remember Horace, who has died with Pollio as far as I am concerned.[20] Farewell, my dearest and most affectionate friend, most distinguished consul and my beloved master, whom I have not seen these two years. Those who say two months, count the days. Shall I ever see you again?'

[19] Ad M. Caes., ii. 10.

[20] He implies, as in i. 6, that he has ceased to study Horace.

Sometimes Fronto sends him a theme to work up, as thus: 'M. Lucilius tribune of the people violently throws into prison a free Roman citizen, against the opinion of his colleagues who demand his release. For this act he is branded by the censor. Analyse the case, and then take both sides in turn, attacking and defending.'[21] Or again: 'A Roman consul, doffing his state robe, dons the gauntlet and kills a lion amongst the young men at the Quinquatrus in full view of the people of Rome. Denunciation before the censors.'[22] The prince has a fair knowledge of Greek, and quotes from Homer, Plato, Euripides, but for some reason Fronto dissuaded him from this study.[23] His _Meditations_ are written in Greek. He continued his literary studies throughout his life, and after he became emperor we still find him asking his adviser for copies of Cicero's Letters, by which he hopes to improve his vocabulary.[24] Pronto helps him with a supply of similes, which, it seems, he did not think of readily. It is to be feared that the fount of Marcus's eloquence was pumped up by artificial means.

[21] Pollio was a grammarian, who taught Marcus.

[22] Ad M. Caes., v. 27,; V. 22.

[23] Ep. Gracae, 6.

[24] Ad Anton. Imp., II. 4.

Some idea of his literary style may be gathered from the letter which follows:[25]

'I heard Polemo declaim the other day, to say something of things sublunary. If you ask what I thought of him, listen. He seems to me an industrious farmer, endowed with the greatest skill, who has cultivated a large estate for corn and vines only, and indeed with a rich return of fine crops. But yet in that land of his there is no Pompeian fig or Arician vegetable, no Tarentine rose, or pleasing coppice, or thick grove, or shady plane tree; all is for use rather than for pleasure, such as one ought rather to commend, but cares not to love.

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

A pretty bold idea, is it not, and rash judgment, to pass censure on a man of such reputation? But whenas I remember that I am writing to you, I think I am less bold than you would have me.

'In that point I am wholly undecided.

'There's an unpremeditated hendecasyllable for you. So before I begin to poetize, I'll take an easy with you. Farewell, my heart's desire, your Verus's best beloved, most distinguisht consul, master most sweet. Farewell I ever pray, sweetest soul.

What a letter do you think you have written me I could make bold to say, that never did she who bore me and nurst me, write anything SO delightful, so honey-sweet. And this does not come of your fine style and eloquence: otherwise not my mother only, but all who breathe.'

To the pupil, never was anything on earth so fine as his master's eloquence; on this theme Marcus fairly bubbles over with enthusiasm.

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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 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 asContinue reading “Meditations 52”

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