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 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 4)

After the preceptorial letters cease the others are concerned with domestic events, health and sickness, visits or introductions, birth or death. Thus the empperor writes to his old friend, who had shown some diffidence in seeking an interview:[40]

[40] Ad Verum. Imp. Aur. Caes., i. 3.

'To MY MASTER.

'I have a serious grievance against you, my dear master, yet indeed my grief is more than my grievance, because after so long a time I neither embraced you nor spoke to you, though you visited the palace, and the moment after I had left the prince my brother. I reproached my brother severely for not recalling me; nor durst he deny the fault.' Fronto again writes on one occasion: 'I have seen your daughter. It was like seeing you and Faustina in infancy, so much that is charming her face has taken from each of yours.' Or again, at a later date:[41] I have seen your chicks, most delightful sight that ever I saw in my life, so like you that nothing is more like than the likeness.... By the mercy of Heaven they have a healthy colour and strong lungs. One held a piece of white bread, like a little prince, the other a common piece, like a true philosophers son.'

[41] Ad Ant. Imp i., 3.

Marcus, we know, was devoted to his children. They were delicate in health, in spite of Fronto's assurance, and only one son survived the father. We find echoes of this affection now and again in the letters. 'We have summer heat here still,' writes Marcus, 'but since my little girls are pretty well, if I may say so, it is like the bracing climate of spring to us.'[42] When little Faustina came back from the valley of the shadow of death, her father at once writes to inform Fronto.[43] The sympathy he asks he also gives, and as old age brings more and more infirmity, Marcus becomes even more solicitous for his beloved teacher. The poor old man suffered a heavy blow in the death of his grandson, on which Marcus writes:[44] 'I have just heard of your misfortune. Feeling grieved as I do when one of your joints gives you pain, what do you think I feel, dear master, when you have pain of mind?' The old man's reply, in spite of a certain self-consciousness, is full of pathos. He recounts with pride the events of a long and upright life, in which he has wronged no man, and lived in harmony with his friends and family. His affectations fall away from him, as the cry of pain is forced from his heart:--

[42] Ad M. Caes., v. 19

[43] iv. 11

[44] De Nepote Amissa

[45]'Many such sorrows has fortune visited me with all my life long. To pass by my other afflictions, I have lost five children under the most pitiful conditions possible: for the five I lost one by one when each was my only child, suffering these blows of bereavement in such a manner that each child was born to one already bereaved. Thus I ever lost my children without solace, and got them amidst fresh grief..…'

[45] De Nepote Amissa 2

The letter continues with reflections on the nature of death, 'more to be rejoiced at than bewailed, the younger one dies,' and an arraignment of Providence not without dignity, wrung from him as it were by this last culminating misfortune. It concludes with a summing-up of his life in protest against the blow which has fallen on his grey head.

'Through my long life I have committed nothing which might bring dishonour, or disgrace, or shame: no deed of avarice or treachery have I done in all my day's: nay, but much generosity, much kindness, much truth and faithfulness have I shown, often at the risk of my own life. I have lived in amity with my good brother, whom I rejoice to see in possession of the highest office by your father's goodness, and by your friendship at peace and perfect rest. The offices which I have myself obtained I never strove for by any underhand means. I have cultivated my mind rather than my body; the pursuit of learning I have preferred to increasing my wealth. I preferred to be poor rather than bound by any' man's obligation, even to want rather than to beg. I have never been extravagant in spending money, I have earned it sometimes because I must. I have scrupulously spoken the truth, and have been glad to hear it spoken to me. I have thought it better to be neglected than to fawn, to be dumb than to feign, to be seldom a friend than to be often a flatterer. I have sought little, deserved not little. So far as I could, I have assisted each according to my means. I have given help readily to the deserving, fearlessly to the undeserving. No one by proving to be ungrateful has made me more slow to bestow promptly all benefits I could give, nor have I ever been harsh to ingratitude. (A fragmentary passage follows, in which he appears to speak of his desire for a peaceful end, and the desolation of his house.) I have suffered long and painful sickness, my beloved Marcus. Then I was visited by pitiful misfortunes: my wife I have lost, my grandson I have lost in Germany:[46] woe is me! I have lost my Decimanus. If I were made of iron, at this tine I could write no more.'

[46] In the war against the Catti.

It is noteworthy that in his _Meditations_ Marcus Aurelius mentions Fronto only once.[47] All his literary studies, his oratory and criticism (such as it was) is forgotten; and, says he, 'Fronto taught me not to expect natural affection from the highly-born.' Fronto really said more than this: that 'affection' is not a Roman quality, nor has it a Latin name.[48] Roman or not Roman, Marcus found affection in Fronto; and if he outgrew his master's intellectual training, he never lost touch with the true heart of the man it is that which Fronto's name brings up to his remembrance, not dissertations on compound verbs or fatuous criticisms of style.

[47] Book I., 8.  [48] Ad Verum, ii. 7

Check out Hermit Life.

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”

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”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: