|June 25, 2022
July 8, 5022 U
edited by C.R. Haines
Copyright © 1918. All Rights Reserved.
HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS
BOOK I 2
BOOK II 26
BOOK III 44
BOOK IV 66
BOOK V 98
BOOK VI 130
BOOK VII 164
BOOK VIII 198
BOOK IX 230
BOOK X 260
book xi 292
BOOK XII 320
NOTE ON CHRISTIANS 383
INDEX OF MATTERS 395
INDEX OF PROPER NAMES 404
GLOSSARY OF GREEK TERMS 411
If thou would'st master care and pain, Unfold this book
and read and read again Its blessed leaves, whereby thou
soon shalt see The past, the present, and the days to be
With opened eyes; and all delight, all grief, Shall be like
smoke, as empty and as brief.
C. R. H.
in Koine Greek not shown here]
in the Anthologia Palatina, ii. p. 603 (Jacobs). Possibly by
Arethas (see P. Maas in Hermes xlviii. p. 295 ff.).]
The Greek text of this book is often difficult and in many
places corrupt beyond cure, but no trouble has been
spared to make the translation as accurate and idiomatic
as possible. I have preferred to err, if error it be, on the side
of over-faithfulness, because the physiognomy of the book
owes so much to the method and style in which it is written.
Its homeliness, abruptness, and want of literary finish
(though it does not lack rhetoric) are part of the character of
the work, and we alter this character by rewriting it into the
terse, epigrammatic, staccato style so much in vogue at the
present day. Another reason for literalness is that it makes
a comparison with the Greek, printed beside it, easier for
the unlearned. When a work has been translated so often
as this one, it is difficult to be original without deviating
further from the text, but I have not borrowed a phrase,
scarcely a word, from any of my predecessors. If
unconscious coincidences appear, it remains only to say
Pereani qui ante nos nostra dixerint!
Numerous references (such as have proved so invaluable
for the due understanding of the Bible) and good indices
have always been greatly wanted in the translations
of this work, and I have taken pains to supply the want.
For a better understanding of the character of Marcus
I have added to the Thoughts translations of his
Speeches and Sayings, with a Note on his attitude
towards the Christians (in which I am glad to
find myself in complete agreement with M. Lemercier). A
companion volume on the Correspondence with Fronto will
contain all his extant Letters. In conclusion my best thanks
are due to Messrs. Teubner for permission to use their text
as the basis of the revised one here printed, to Professors
Leopold and Schenkl for advice and help on various points,
and, last but not least, to my predecessors in the
translation of this "Golden Book."
C. R. HAINES.
It is not known how this small but priceless book of
private devotional memoranda came to be preserved for
posterity. But the writer that in it puts away all desire for
after-fame has by means of it attained to imperishable
remembrance. As Renan has said, "tous, tant que nous
sommes, nous portons au coeur le deuil de Marc Aurele
comine s'il etait mort d'hier." Internal evidence proves that
the author was Marcus Antoninus, emperor of Rome
7 March 161 to 17 March 180, and notes added in one MS
between Books I and II and II and III shew that the second
Book was composed when the writer was among the Quadi
on the Gran, and the third at Carnuntum (Haimburg). The
headquarters of Marcus in the war against the barbarians
were at Carnuntum 171-173, and we know that the so-called
"miraculous victory" against the Quadi was in 174.
But Professor Schenkl has given good reasons for thinking
that the first book was really written last and prefixed as a
sort of introduction to the rest of the work. It was probably
written as a whole, while the other books consist mostly of
disconnected jottings. The style
throughout is abrupt and concise, and words have
occasionally to be supplied to complete the sense. There is
here no reasoned treatise on Ethics, no exposition of Stoic
Philosophy, such as the sectarum ardua ac perocculta or
the ordo praeceptionum, on which Marcus is said to have
discoursed before he set out the last time for the war in
178, but we have a man and a ruler taking counsel with
himself, noting his own shortcomings, excusing those of
others, and "whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things
are honourable, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever
things are pure," exhorting his soul to think on these things.
Never were words written more transparently single-
hearted and sincere. They were not merely written, they
were lived. Those who accuse Marcus of pharisaism
wilfully mistake his character and betray their own. Very
noticeable is the delicacy of the author's mind and the
restrained energy of his style. He eschews all the
'windflowers' of speech, but the simplicity,
straightforwardness, and dignity of his thoughts lend an
imperial nobility to his expression of them. There is a
certain choiceness and even poetry in his words which
amply condone an occasional roughness and technicality
of phrase. Striking images are not infrequent, and such a
passage as Book II, 2 is unique in ancient literature. This is
not a book of confessions, and comparatively few allusions
to personal incidents are to be found except in the first
book, while an air of complete aloofness and detachment
pervades the whole. The author expressly disclaims all
[--] or originality and
acuteness of intellect, and there is a good deal of repetition
unavoidable in the nature of the work, for "line upon line"
and "precept upon precept" are required in all moral
Of his two great Stoic predecessors Marcus has no
affinity with Seneca. He certainly knew all about him and
they have many thoughts in common, but Seneca's
rhetorical flamboyance, his bewildering contradictions, the
glaring divergence between his profession and his practice
have no counterpart in Marcus. Epictetus the Phrygian
slave was his true spiritual father, but we do not find in the
Emperor the somewhat rigid didacticism and spiritual
dogmatism of his predecessor. Marcus is humbler and not
so confident. The hardness and arrogance of Stoicism are
softened in him by an infusion of Platonism and other
philosophies. With the Peripatetics he admits the
inequality of faults. His humanity will not cast out
compassion as an emotion of the heart. His is no cut and
dried creed, for he often wavers and is inconsistent. Call
not his teaching ineffectual. He is not trying to teach
anyone. He is reasoning with his own soul and
championing its cause against the persuasions and
impulses of the flesh. How far did he succeed? "By nature
a good man," says Dio, "his education and the moral
training he imposed upon himself
made him a far better one." "As was natural to one who
had beautified his soul with every virtuous quality he was
innocent of all wrong-doing." The wonderful revelation
here given of the [--] of the spiritual athlete in the
contests of life is full of inspiration still even for the modem
world. It has been and is a source of solace and strength to
thousands, and has helped to mould the characters of
more than one leader of men, such as Frederick the Great,
Maximilian of Bavaria, Captain John Smith, the 'saviour of
Virginia,' and that noble Christian soldier, General Gordon.
It was but the other day, on the fiftieth anniversary of Italian
Unity, that the King of Italy, speaking on the Capitol,
referred to Marcus "as the sacred and propitiatory image of
that cult of moral and civil law which our Fatherland wishes
to follow," a reference received with particular applause by
those who heard it.
Whoever rescued the MS of the "Thoughts" on the
death of their author in 180, whether it was that noble
Roman, Pompeianus, the son-in-law of Marcus, or the
high-minded Victorinus, his lifelong friend, we seem to hear
an echo of its teaching in the dying words of Comificia, his
possibly last surviving daughter, when put to death by
Caracalla in 215: "O wretched little soul of mine,
imprisoned in an unworthy body, go forth, be free!" It was
doubtless known to Chryseros the freedman and
nomenclator of Marcus who wrote a history of Rome to the
death of his patron, and to the Emperor
Gordian I., for the latter in his youth, soon after the
Emperor's death, wrote an epic poem on Pius and Marcus.
He also married Fabia Orestilla, the latter's granddaughter
through Fadilla (probably) and Claudius Severus. As their
eldest son Gordian II. had sixty children, the blood of
Marcus was soon widely diffused.
The first direct mention of the work is about 350 A.D. in
the Orations of the pagan philosopher Themistius, who
speaks of the [--] (precepts) of Marcus. Then for
550 years we lose sight of the book entirely, until, about
900, the compiler of the dictionary, which goes by the name
of Suidas, reveals the existence of a MS of it by making
some thirty quotations, taken from books I, III, IV, V, IX,
and XI. He calls the book [--] an "[--] (a directing) of
his own life by Marcus the Emperor in twelve
books." About the same time Arethas, a Cappadocian
bishop, writing to his metropolitan, speaks of the scarcity of
this [--] and apparently sends him a copy of it.
He also refers to it three times in scholia to Lucian,
calling it [--]. Two similar references are found in the scholia
to Dio Chrysostom, possibly by the same Arethas.
Again a silence of 250 years, after which Tzetzes, a
grammarian of Constantinople, quotes passages from
Books IV. and V. attributing them to Marcus. About 150
years later (1300 A.D.) the ecclesiastical historian,
Nicephorus Callistus (iii. 31) writes that Marcus a composed
a book of instruction for his son, full of universal
([--] secular) experience and wisdom." About
this very time Planudes, a monk
of Constantinople, may have been engaged in compiling
the anthology of extracts from various authors, including
Marcus and Aelian, which has come down to us in twenty-
five or more MSS dating from the fourteenth to the
sixteenth century. They contain in all forty-four extracts
from books IV.-XII., but are practically of no help in
re-establishing the text. Our present text is based almost
entirely upon two MSS, the Codex Palatinus (P) first printed
in 1558 by Xylander but now lost, which contains the whole
work, and the Codex Vaticanus 1950 (A) from which about
forty-two lines have dropped out by accidental omissions
here and there. Two other MSS give some independent
help to the text, but they are incomplete, the Codex
Darmstadtinus 2773 (D) with 112 extracts from books I.-IX.
and Codex Parisinus 319 (C) with twenty-nine extracts from
Books I.-IV., with seven other MSS derived from it or from
the same source. Apart from all these there is but one other
MS (Monacensis 323) which contains only fourteen very
short fragments from Books IL, III.,IV., and VII.
Translations of this Book have been made into Latin,
English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Norse, Russian,
Czech, Polish and Persian. In England alone twenty-six
editions of the work appeared in the seventeenth century,
fifty-eight in the eighteenth, eighty-one in the nineteenth,
and in the twentieth up to 1908 thirty more.
The English translations are as follows.—
1. Meric Casaubon,—"Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. His
Meditations concerning himselfe: Treating of a
Naturall Man's Happinesse; wherein it consisteth, and of
the Meanes to attain unto it. Translated out of the original
Greeke with Notes by Meric Casaubon B.D., London,
This, the first English translation, albeit involved and
periphrastic, is not without dignity or scholarship, though
James Thomson in 1747 says that "it is everywhere rude
and unpolished and often mistakes the author's meaning,"
while the Foulis Press Translators of 1742 find fault with its
"intricate and antiquated style." It may be conveniently read
in Dr. Rouse's new edition of 1900, which also contains
some excellent translations of letters between Fronto and
2. Jeremy Collier.—"The Emperor Marcus Antoninus
His Conversation with Himself. Translated into English by
Jeremy Collier M.A., London 1701." A recent edition of it by
Alice Zimmern is in the Camelot Series, but it hardly
deserved the honour. We may fairly say of it that it is too
colloquial. James Thomson in 1747 speaks of it as "a very
coarse copy of an excellent original," and as "bearing so
faint a resemblance to the original in a great many places
as scarcely to seem taken from it." R. Graves in 1792
remarks that it "abounds with so many vulgarities, anilities
and even ludicrous expressions . . . that one cannot now
read it with any patience." The comment of G. Long in 1862
is much the same, but it called forth an unexpected
champion of the older translator in Matthew Arnold, who
says: "Most English people, who knew Marcus Aurelius
before Mr. Long appeared as his introducer, knew him
through Jeremy Collier. And the acquaintance of a man like
Marcus Aurelius is such an imperishable
benefit that one can never lose a peculiar sense of
obligation towards the man who confers it. Apart from this
however, Jeremy Collier's version deserves respect for its
genuine spirit and vigour, the spirit and vigour of the age of
Dryden. His warmth of feeling gave to his style an
impetuosity and rhythm which from Mr. Long's style are
absent." The real defect of Collier as a translator, adds
Arnold, is his imperfect acquaintance with Greek.
3. James Moor and Thomas Hutcheson.—"The
Meditations of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus.
Newly translated from the Greek with notes." Glasgow: The
Foulis Press, 1742. Certainly the best translation, previous
to Long's, for accuracy and diction, and superior to that in
spirit. Dr. Rendall (1898) praises it as "the choicest alike in
form and contents." R. Graves, however, in 1792, while
allowing its fidelity, had pronounced it "unnecessarily
literal," and shewing a "total neglect of elegance and
harmony of style." A very satisfactory revision of this
translation appeared in 1902, made by G. W. Chrystal.
4. Richard Graves.—"The Meditations of the Emperor
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. A New Translation from the
Greek Original, with notes." By R. Graves, M.A., Rector of
Claverton, Somerset. Bath, 1792.
A fairly accurate and smooth version of no especial
distinction, but superior to most of its predecessors. An
abbreviated edition of this was published at Stourport
without any date by N. Swaine with the title: "The
Meditations of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus
Philosophus collated with and abridged from the best
5. George Long.—"The Thoughts of the Emperor
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus." Translated by George Long.
London, 1862. This may be looked upon as in some sense
the "authorized version," and it is from it that most people
know their Marcus Aurelius. For nearly forty years it was
master of the field. M. Arnold, though finding fault with the
translator as not idiomatic or simple enough and even
pedantic, yet gives him full credit for soundness, precision,
and general excellence in his translation. The author tells
us that he deliberately chose a ruder style as better suited,
in his opinion, to express the character of the original,
which is distinctive, for in spite of Arnold's dictum to the
contrary the book of Marcus has a "distinct physiognomy,"
and here, more than is usually the case, le style c'est
6. Hastings Crossley.—"The Fourth Book of the
Meditations of Marcus Aurelius." A revised text with
Translation and commentary by Hastings Crossley, M.A.,
London, 1882. This specimen makes us regret that the
author did not publish the whole version which he tells us
was in MS. The book contains an interesting appendix on
the relations of Fronto and Marcus.
7. G. H. Rendall.—"Marcus Aurelius Antoninus to
Himself: An English Translation with Introductory Study on
Stoicism and the Last of the Stoics." By Gerald H. Rendall,
M.A., Litt.D., London, 1898. A second edition with a
different introduction was published in 1901.
This version has been pronounced by many critics the
best rendering of the Thoughts. Its accuracy, ability, and
liveliness are unquestionable.
8. John Jackson,—"The Meditations of Marcus
Aurelius Antoninus." Translated by John Jackson. With an
introduction by Charles Bigg. Oxford, 1906.
This version is the newest comer, and is a worthy
presentment of the Thoughts. There are useful notes, but
some very bold alterations of the text have been followed in
the English version. The book would have been more
acceptable without the introduction by Dr. Bigg, which gives
a most unfair and wholly inaccurate view of the life and
character of Marcus.
Besides the above versions there are several abridged
translations of the Thoughts, which need not be
enumerated here. But the two chief ones seem to be by B.
E. Smith, published by the Century Company, New York,
1899, and by J. E. Wilson, London, 1902.
Stoicism was so called from the Colonnade at Athens,
where Zeno about 300 B.C. first taught its doctrines. More
religious in character than any other Greek philosophy, it
brought a new moral force into the world. It put intellectual
speculation more into the background, and carried the
moral attitude of the Cynics further into the domain of right
conduct. Oriental fervour was in it grafted on Greek
acumen, for Zeno was a Phoenician Greek of Cyprus, and
Chrysippus, the St Paul who defined and established
Stoicism, a Cilician like the Apostle.
In spite of its origin Stoicism proved wonderfully adapted
to the practical Roman character, and under the tyranny of
the early Caesars it formed the only impregnable fortress8
of liberty for the noblest Romans. It reached its culmination,
and found its highest exponents as a living creed in the
courtier Seneca, the Phrygian slave Epictetus, and the
emperor Marcus Antoninus.
Stoic philosophy consisted of Logic, Physics, and
Ethics. Logic, which comprised Dialectics and
Rhetoric, was the necessary instrument of all speculation;
but Marcus found no satisfaction in either branch of it, nor
in such Physics as dealt with Meteorology.
The key-note of Stoicism was Life according to Nature,
and Marcus was converted to the pursuit of this possibly by
Sextus the Boeotian. By "Nature" was meant the
controlling Reason of the Universe. A study of Physics
was necessary for a proper understanding of the Cosmos
and our position in it, and thus formed the scientific basis of
philosophy; but it was regarded as strictly subordinate, and
merely a means to an end.
Though he confesses to some disappointment in his
progress therein, there is no doubt that Marcus was well
versed in Stoic Physics. Fully recognizing the value of a
scientific spirit of enquiry, he describes it as a
characteristic of the rational soul to "go the whole Universe
through and grasp its plan," affirming that "no man can be
good without correct notions as to the Nature of the Whole
and his own constitution."
To the Stoics the Universe—God and Matter—was
One, all Substance, unified by the close 'sympathy' and
interdependence of the parts, forming with the rational
Power, that was co-extensive with it, a single entity. The
Primary Being, by means of its informing
Force, acting as igneous or atmospheric current upon
inert matter, evolved out of itself a Cosmos, subsequent
modifications being by way of consequence. This Universe
is periodically destroyed by fire, thus returning again to its
pristine Being, only however to be created anew on the
same plan even to the smallest details; and so on for ever.
God and Matter being thus indistinguishable, for all that
was not God in its original form was God in an indirect
sense as a manifestation of him, the Stoic creed was
inevitably pantheistic. It was also materialistic; for the
Stoics, allowing existence to nothing incorporeal, by means
of their strange theory of air-currents inherent even in
abstract things such as virtue, rendered not only them but
God himself corporeal, terming him the "perfect living
Being." But their conceptions on this point seem to be
really irreconcilable, for while on the one hand they speak
of the Supreme Power by such names as Zeus, Cause or
Force, Soul, Mind, or Reason of the Universe, Law or
Truth, Destiny, Necessity, Providence, or Nature of the
Whole, on the other they identify it with such terms as Fiery
Fluid, or Heat, Ether (warm air) or Pneuma (atmospheric
Other physical theories were borrowed from Heraclitus,
and Marcus constantly alludes to these, such as the
"downward and upward" round of the elements as they
emanate from the primary Fire, air passing into fire, fire into
earth, earth into water and so back again, and the famous
doctrine that all things are in flux.
Man consists of Body, Soul, Intelligence, or Flesh,
Pneuma, and the Ruling Reason. But the [--] (soul) can be
looked upon in two ways, as [--], an exhalation
from blood, and as [--], the ruling Reason. It
is the latter, a "morsel" or "efflux" from the Divine, which
constitutes the real man. Marcus often speaks of this
rational nature of a man as his daemon, or genius
enthroned within him, and makes the whole problem of life
depend upon how this Reason treats itself. As all that is
rational is akin, we are formed for fellowship with others
and, the universe being one, what affects a part of it affects
the whole. Reason is as a Law to all rational creatures, and
so we are all citizens of a World-state. In this
cosmopolitanism the Stoics approached the Christian view,
ethics being divorced from national politics and made of
universal application. It was no cloistered virtue the Stoics
preached, showing how a man can save his own soul, but
a practical positive goodness; though it cannot be denied
that the claims of [--]
(the self-sufficiency of the Inner Self) and Koivwvta (social
interdependence of parts of a common whole) are not easy
to reconcile. It is certain, however, that the Stoic admission
of slaves into the brotherhood of man had an ameliorating
effect upon slavery, and the well-known bias of Marcus in
favour of enfranchisement may well have been due to his
From virtue alone can happiness and peace of mind
result, and virtue consists in submission to the higher
Power and all that he sends us, in mastery over our animal
nature, in freedom from all perturbation, and in the entire
independence of the Inner Self. Since life is Opinion and
everything but what we think it, the vital question is what
assent we give to the impressions of our senses. "Wipe
out imagination," says Marcus, time after time, "and you
are saved." "Do not think yourself hurt and you remain
unhurt." He longs for the day when he shall cease to be
duped by his impressions and pulled like a puppet by his
passions, and his soul shall be in a great calm. But virtue
must also show itself, like faith, in right actions. It means
not only self-control but justice and benevolence to others
and piety towards the Gods.
By the Gods Marcus sometimes means the controlling
Reason, sometimes, apparently, Gods in a more popular
sense, such as are even visible to the
eyes. He often puts the alternative God (or Gods) and
Atoms, but himself firmly believes that there are immortal
Gods who care for mankind, live with them, and help even
bad men. He bids himself call upon them, follow them, be
their minister, live with them and be likened to them. They
too are part of the Cosmos and subject to its limitations,
and by our own loyalty to Destiny we contribute to the
welfare and permanence of God himself. But a predestined
Order of things involved fatalism, and the Stoics were hard
put to it to maintain the complete freedom of the will.
Unfortunately the Stoic scheme left no room for
Immortality. At most a soul could only exist till the next
conflagration, when it must be absorbed again into the
Primary Being. Seneca indeed, who was no true Stoic,
speaks in almost Christian terms of a new and blissful life
to come, but Epictetus turns resolutely, and Marcus with
evident reluctance, from a hope so dear to the human
heart. In one place the latter even uses the expression
"another life," and finds it a hard saying that the souls of
those who were in closest communion with God should die
for ever when they die. But he does not repine. He is
ready for either fate, extinction or transference elsewhere.
One more question remains, that of Suicide. The Stoics
allowed this, if circumstances made it impossible
for a man to maintain his moral standard. The
door is open, but the call must be very clear. Still the act
seems quite inconsistent with the doctrine of submission to
Destiny, and the classing of things external as indifferent.
In this brief sketch of Stoicism much has perforce been
omitted, and much may seem obscure, but Marcus
confesses that "things are in a manner so wrapped up in
mystery that even the Stoics have found them difficult to
apprehend." This at least we know, that Stoicism inspired
some of the noblest lives ever lived, left its humanizing
impress upon the Roman Law, which we have inherited,
and appeals in an especial way to some of the higher
instincts of our nature.
Of the chief editions and commentaries referred to in the critical notes.
Xyl.—The premier edition from the lost Palatine MS., issued in 1558, with a Latin translation by Xylander (i.e. W. Holzmann of Augsburg).
Cas.—Meric Casaubon's first edition of the original Greek in
1643. Reprinted 1680.
Gat.—Thomas Gataker's edition, published in 1652 at Cambridge with a new Latin version and voluminous notes including contributions from Saumaise (Salm.), Boot, and Junius. Reprinted 1696, 1704, 1707, 1729 (Wollt and Buddeus), 1744, 1751, 1775 (Morus).
Sch.—Jo. Matth. Schultz. Editions 1802 (Sleswig), 1820 (Leipzig), 1842 (Paris). Menagius and Reiske supplied notes to Schultz. Cor.—A. Coraes, in vol. iv.: [--]. Paris, 1816. This editor has made more successful emendations of the text than any other.
Bach.—Nicholas Bach, "De Marco Aurelio Antonino," Lipsiae,
Pierron.—Alexis Pierron, "Penskes de l'Empereur Marc Aurele Antonin." Paris, 1843 (with introduction and notes).
Loft.—Edition by C. L. Porcher (—Capel Lofft). New York, 1863.
Proof-sheets of this, with additional notes, are in the British
Scaph.—Panag. Schaphidiotes, [--] Athens, 1881.
Stich.—Jo. Stich, H "Adnotationes criticae ad M. Antoninum,"
Programm der K. Studienanstatt, Zweibriicken, 1880/1.
The same editor brought out an edition for the Teubner
Series in 1882, and a second revised edition in 1903, with
valuable introductions and index.
Nauck.—August Nauck, "De M. Antonini Commentariis," 1882,
Bulletin de l'Academie imperials des Sciences de St. Petersbourg (28), pp. 196-210. See also "Melanges Greco-Romains" ii. 743-5.
Pol.—Hermann J. Polak, "In Marci Antonini Commentaries
analecta critica," Hermes xxi. (1886), pp. 321-356, and Sylloge
commentationum quam C. Conto obtulerunt philologi Batavi,
Lugd. Bat., 1894, pp. 85-94.
Rend.—G. H. Rendall, "On the text of M. Aurelius Antoninus [--],"
Journal of Philology, xxiii., pp. 116-160.
Wilam.—Ulrich de Wilamowitz-Moellendorf, Griechisches
Lesebuch ii., pp. 311-320. Berlin, 1902.
Hoffm.—P. Hoffmann, "Notes critiques sur Marc Aurfele," Revue de l'Instruction publique en Belgique, xlvii., 1904, pp. 11-23.
Sonny.—Adolf Sonny, "Zur Ueberlieforung Geschichte von M.
A.," Philologus 54, pp. 181-3.
Leop.—J. H. Leopold, "Ad M. Antonini commentaries,"
Mnemosyne xxxi., 1902, pp. 341-364; xxxiv., 1907, pp. 63-82. He
also brought out a new edition of the Greek text for the Clarendon Press in 1911.
Fourn.—Paul Fournier, "Penskes de Marc Aurdle." Traduction
d'Auguste Couat editee par P. Fournier. Paris, 1904. There are
Rich.—Herbert Richards, "Notes on Marcus Aurelius," Classical Quarterly, xix., Feb., 1905, pp. 18-21.
Kron.—A. J. Kronenberg, "Ad M. Antoninum," Classical Review, xix., July, 1905, pp. 301-3.
Schmidt.—Karl Fr. W. Schmidt, "Textkritische Bemer-kungen zu Mark Aurel," Hermes, xlii. 1907, pp. 595-607.
Lemerc.—A. P. Lemercier, "Les Penskes de Marc Aurele," Paris, 1910, with notes and a good introduction.
Schenld.—Heinrich Schenkl, a new edition of the Thoughts for the Teubner Press, 1913. The latest and most complete edition with valuable introductions and full indices. The same Editor has also published "Zur handscriftlichen Ueberlieferung von Marcus Antoninus" (Bran os Vmdobonensis, 1893), and "Zum erste Buche des Selbstbetrachtungen des Kaisers Marcus Antoninus"
(Wiener Studien, 1912).
Haines.—C. R. Haines, "The Composition and Chronology of the Thoughts of Marcus Aurelius," Journal of Philology, vol. xxxiii., No. 66, pp. 278-295.
For the history and doctrines of Stoicism besides the standard
work of Zeller and the recent treatise on "Roman Stoicism" by E. V. Arnold, the following will be found useful:—N. Bach
(mentioned above) 1826; H. Doergens, "de comparatione
Antoninianae philosophise cum L. Annaei Senecae," 1816; the
admirable essay on Stoicism bv G. H. Rendall prefixed to his
edition of 1898; "Greek ana Roman Stoicism'' by C. H. S. Davis,
1903; and "Stoic and Christian" by Leonard Alston, 1906.
We now have:
A. L. Trannoy, Pensbes, edited with French translation, Bude,
F. Martinazzoli, La Successio d. Marco Aurelio. Struttura e
spirito del primo I. dei Pensieri, Bari, 1951.
H. R. Neuenschwander, Mark Aurels. Beziehungen zu Seneca
u. Poseidonius, Bern, 1951.
A. S. L. Farquharson, Meditations, edited with English
translation. I. Oxford, 1944.
M. Staniforth, Translation in Penguin Books, Harmonds-worth
A. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, London, 1966. Deals with his
P = Codex Palatinus (Xylander), = T (Schenkl).
A = Codex Vaticanus 1950.
0 = Codex Parisinus 319.
D = Codex Darmstadtinus 2773.
Mo = Codex Monachensis (Munich) 529.
< > Words thus enclosed are inserted by conjecture.
[ ] Words in the text which should probably be omitted.
t Doubtful readings in the text.
" " mark quotations or words of a speaker.
' ' mark proverbial, colloquial, or poetical expressions.
* * * *
Website NOTE: [--] means Koine Greek words
are not transliterated and not shown
by the editor of this website version.
* * * *
MARCUS AURELIUS ANTONINUS
1. From my Grandfather Verus, a kindly disposition
and sweetness of temper.
2. From what I heard of my Father and my memory of
him, modesty and manliness.
3. From my Mother, the fear of God, and generosity;
and abstention not only from doing ill but even from the very
thought of doing it; and furthermore to live the simple life,
far removed from the habits of the rich.
4. From my Grandfather's Father, to dispense with
attendance at public schools, and to enjoy good teachers at
home, and to recognize that on such things money should
be eagerly spent.
BOOK I (cont.)
5. From my Tutor, not to side with the Green Jacket or
the Blue at the races, or to back the Light-Shield Champion
or the Heavy-Shield in the lists; not to shirk toil, and to
have few wants, and to do my own work, and mind my own
concerns; and to turn a deaf ear to slander.
6. From Diognetus, not to be taken up with trifles; and
not to give credence to the statements of miracle-mongers
and wizards about incantations and the exorcizing of
demons, and such-like marvels; and not to keep quails, nor
to be excited about such things: not to resent plain
speaking; and to become familiar with philosophy and be a
hearer first of Baccheius, then of Tandasis and Marcianus;
and to write dialogues as a boy; and to set my heart on a
pallet-bed and a pelt and whatever else tallied with the
7. From Rusticus, to become aware of the fact that I
needed amendment and training for my character; and not
to be led aside into an argumentative sophistry; nor
compose treatises on speculative subjects, or deliver little
homilies, or pose ostentatiously as the moral athlete or
unselfish man; and to eschew rhetoric, poetry, and fine
language; and not to go
BOOK I (cont.)
about the house in my robes, nor commit any such breach
of good taste; and to write letters without affectation, like his
own letter written to my mother from Sinuessa; to shew
oneself ready to be reconciled to those who have lost their
temper and trespassed against one, and ready to meet
them halfway as soon as ever they seem to be willing to
retrace their steps; to read with minute care and not to be
content with a superficial bird's-eye view; nor to be too
quick in agreeing with every voluble talker; and to make the
acquaintance of the Memoirs of Epictetus, which he
supplied me with out of his own library.
8. From Apollonius, self-reliance and an unequivocal
determination not to leave anything to chance; and to look
to nothing else even for a moment save Reason alone; and
to remain ever the same, in the throes of pain, on the loss of
a child, during a lingering illness; and to see plainly from a
living example that one and the same man can be very
vehement and yet gentle: not to be impatient in instructing
others; and to see in him a man who obviously counted as
the least among his gifts his practical experience and facility
in imparting philosophic truths; and to learn in accepting
seeming favours from friends not to give up our
independence for such things nor take them callously as a
matter of course.
9. From Sextus, kindliness, and the example of a
household patriarchally governed; and the conception of life
in accordance with Nature; and dignity without affectation;
and an intuitive consideration for friends; and a toleration of
the unlearned and the unreasoning.
And his tactful treatment of all his friends, so that simply
to be with him was more delightful than any flattery, while at
the same time those who enjoyed this privilege looked up to
him with the utmost reverence; and the grasp and method
which he shewed in discovering and marshalling the
essential axioms of life.
And never to exhibit any symptom of anger or any other
passion, but to be at the same time utterly impervious to all
passions and full of natural affection; and to praise without
noisy obtrusiveness, and to possess great learning but
make no parade of it.
10. From Alexander the Grammarian, not to be
captious; nor in a carping spirit find fault with those who
import into their conversation any expression which is
barbarous or ungrammatical or mispronounced, but tactfully
to bring in the very expression, that ought to have been
used, by way of answer, or as it were in joint support of the
assertion, or as a joint consideration of the thing itself and
not of the language, or by some such graceful reminder.
11. From Fronto, to note the envy, the subtlety, and the
dissimulation which are habitual to a tyrant; and that, as a
general rule, those amongst us who rank as patricians are
somewhat wanting in natural affection.
BOOK I (cont.)
12. From Alexander the Platonist, not to say to
anyone often or without necessity, nor write in a letter, I am
too busy, nor in this fashion constantly plead urgent affairs
as an excuse for evading the obligations entailed upon us
by our relations towards those around us.
13. From Catulus, not to disregard a friend's
expostulation even when it is unreasonable, but to try to
bring him back to his usual friendliness; and to speak with
whole-hearted good-will of one's teachers, as it is recorded
that Domitius did of Athenodotus; and to be genuinely
fond of one's children.
14. From my 'brother' Severus, love of family, love of
truth, love of justice, and (thanks to him !) to know Thrasea,
Heividius, Cato, Dion, Brutus; and the conception of a state
with one law for all, based upon individual equality and
freedom of speech, and of a sovranty which prizes above all
things the liberty of the subject; and furthermore from him
also to set a well-balanced and unvarying value on
philosophy; and readiness to do others a kindness, and
eager generosity, and optimism, and confidence in the love
of friends; and perfect openness in the case of those that
came in for his censure; and the absence of any need for
his friends to surmise what he did or did not wish, so plain
BOOK I (cont.)
15. From Maximus, self-mastery and stability of purpose;
and cheeriness in sickness as well as in all other
circumstances; and a character justly proportioned of
sweetness and gravity; and to perform without grumbling the
task that lies to one's hand.
And the confidence of every one in him that what he said
was also what he thought, and that what he did was done
with no ill intent. And not to shew surprise, and not to be
daunted; never to be hurried, or hold back, or be at a loss,
or downcast, or smile a forced smile, or, again, be ill-
tempered or suspicious.
And beneficence and placability and veracity; and to give
the impression of a man who cannot deviate from the right
way rather than of one who is kept in it; and that no one
could have thought himself looked down upon by him, or
could go so far as to imagine himself a better man than he;
and to keep pleasantry within due bounds.
16. From my Father, mildness, and an unshakable
adherence to decisions deliberately come to; and no empty
vanity in respect to so-called honours; and a love of work
and thoroughness; and a readiness to hear any suggestions
for the common good; and an inflexible determination to
give every man his due; and to know by experience when is
the time to insist and when to desist; and to suppress all
passion for boys.
BOOK I (cont.)
And his public spirit, and his not at all requiring his friends
to sup with him or necessarily attend him abroad, and their
always finding him the same when any urgent affairs had
kept them away; and the spirit of thorough investigation
which he shewed in the meetings of his Council, and his
perseverance; nay his never desisting prematurely from an
enquiry on the strength of off-hand impressions; and his
faculty for keeping his friends and never being bored with
them or infatuated about them; and his self-reliance in every
emergency, and his good humour; and his habit of looking
ahead and making provision for the smallest details without
And his restricting in his reign public acclamations and
every sort of adulation; and his unsleeping attention to the
needs of the empire, and his wise stewardship of its
resources, and his patient tolerance of the censure that all
this entailed; and his freedom from superstition with respect
to the Gods and from hunting for popularity with respect to
men by pandering to their desires or by courting the mob:
yea his soberness in all things and stedfastness; and the
absence in him of all vulgar tastes and any craze for novelty.
And the example that he gave of utilizing without pride,
and at the same without any apology, all the lavish gifts of
Fortune that contribute towards the comfort of life, so as to
enjoy them when present as a matter of course, and, when
absent, not to miss them: and no one could charge him with
sophistry, flippancy, or pedantry; but he was a man mature,
BOOK I (cont.)
complete, deaf to flattery, able to preside over his
own affairs and those of others.
Besides this also was his high appreciation of all true
philosophers without any upbraiding of the others, and at the
same time without any undue subservience to them; then
again his easiness of access and his graciousness that yet
had nothing fulsome about it; and his reasonable attention to
his bodily requirements, not as one too fond of life, or vain of
his outward appearance, nor yet as one who neglected it,
but so as by his own carefulness to need but very seldom
the skill of the leech or medicines and outward applications.
But most of all a readiness to acknowledge without
jealousy the claims of those who were endowed with any
especial gift, such as eloquence or knowledge of law or
ethics or any other subject, and to give them active support,
that each might gain the honour to which his individual
eminence entitled him; and his loyalty to constitutional
precedent without any parade of the fact that it was
according to precedent.
Furthermore he was not prone to change or vacillation,
but attached to the same places and the same things; and
after his spasms of violent headache he would come back at
once to his usual employments with renewed vigour; and his
secrets were not many but very few and at very rare
intervals, and then only political secrets; and he shewed
good sense and moderation in his management of public
spectacles, and in the construction of public works, and in
congiaria and the like, as a man who
BOOK I (cont.)
had an eye to what had to be done and not to the credit to
be gained thereby.
He did not bathe at all hours; he did not build for the love
of building; he gave no thought to his food, or to the texture
and colour of his clothes, or the comeliness of his slaves.
His robe came up from Lorium, his country-seat in the
plains, and Lanuvium supplied his wants for the most part.
Think of how he dealt with the customs' officer at Tusculum
when the latter apologized, and it was a type of his usual
There was nothing rude in him, nor yet overbearing or
violent nor carried, as the phrase goes, "to the sweating
state"; but everything was considered separately, as by a
man of ample leisure, calmly, methodically, manfully,
consistently. One might apply to him what is told of
Socrates, that he was able to abstain from or enjoy those
things that many are not strong enough to refrain from and
too much inclined to enjoy. But to have the strength to
persist in the one case and be abstemious in the other is
characteristic of a man who has a perfect and indomitable
soul, as was seen in the illness of Maximus.
17. From the Gods, to have good grandfathers, good
parents, a good sister, good teachers, good companions,
kinsmen, friends—nearly all of them; and that I fell into no
trespass against any of them, and yet I had a disposition that
way inclined, such as might have led me into something of
the sort, had
BOOK I (cont.)
it so chanced; but by the grace of God there was no such
coincidence of circumstances as was likely to put me to the
And that I was not brought up any longer with my
grandfathers concubine, and that I kept unstained the flower
of my youth; and that I did not make trial of my manhood
before the due time, but even postponed it.
That I was subordinated to a ruler and a father capable of
ridding me of all conceit, and of bringing me to recognize
that it is possible to live in a Court and yet do without body-
guards and gorgeous garments and linkmen and statues
and the like pomp; and that it is in such a man's power to
reduce himself very nearly to the condition of a private
individual and yet not on this account to be more paltry or
more remiss in dealing with what the interests of the state
require to be done in imperial fashion.
That it was my lot to have such a brother, capable by his
character of stimulating me to watchful care over myself, and
at the same time delighting me by his deference and
affection: that my children have not been devoid of
intelligence nor physically deformed. That I did not make
more progress in rhetoric and poetry and my other studies,
in which I should perhaps have been engrossed, had I felt
myself making good way in them. That I lost no time in
promoting my tutors to such posts of
BOOK I (cont.)
honour as they seemed to desire, and that I did not put
them off with the hope that I would do this later on since they
were still young. That I got to know Apollonius, Rusticus,
That I had clear and frequent conceptions as to the true
meaning of a life according to Nature, so that as far as the
Gods were concerned and their blessings and assistance
and intention, there was nothing to prevent me from
beginning at once to live in accordance with Nature, though I
still come short of this ideal by my own fault, and by not
attending to the reminders, nay, almost the instructions, of
That my body holds out so long in such a life as mine;
that I did not touch Benedicta or Theodotus, but that even
afterwards, when I did give way to amatory passions, I was
cured of them; that, though often offended with Rusticus, I
never went so far as to do anything for which I should have
been sorry; that my mother, though she was to die young,
yet spent her last years with me.
That as often as I had the inclination to help anyone, who
was in pecuniary distress or needing any other assistance, I
was never told that there was no money available for the
purpose; and that I was never under any similar need of
accepting help from another. That I have been blessed with
a wife so docile, so affectionate, so unaffected; that I had
no lack of suitable tutors for my children.
BOOK I (cont.)
That by the agency of dreams I was given antidotes
both of other kinds and against the spitting of blood and
vertigo; and there is that response also at Caieta, "as thou
shalt use it." And that, when I had set my heart on
philosophy, I did not fall into the hands of a sophist, nor
sat down at the author's desk, or became a solver of
syllogisms, nor busied myself with physical phenomena.
For all the above the Gods as helpers and good fortune
Written among the Quadi on the Gran.
1. Say to thyself at daybreak: I shall come across the
busy-body, the thankless, the overbearing, the
treacherous, the envious, the unneighbourly. All this has
befallen them because they know not good from evil. But I,
in that I have comprehended the nature of the Good that it
is beautiful, and the nature of Evil that it is ugly, and the
nature of the wrong-doer himself that it is akin to me, not
as partaker of the same blood and seed but of intelligence
and a morsel of the Divine, can neither be injured by any of
them—for no one can involve me in what is debasing—nor
can I be wroth with my kinsman and hate him. For we have
come into being for co-operation, as have the feet, the
hands, the eyelids, the rows of upper and lower teeth.
Therefore to thwart one another is against Nature; and we
do thwart one another by shewing resentment and
2. This that I am, whatever it be, is mere flesh and a
little breath and the ruling Reason. Away with thy books!
Be no longer drawn aside by them: it is not allowed. But as
one already dying disdain the flesh: it is naught but gore
and bones and a network compact of nerves and veins and
arteries. Look at the breath too, what sort of thing it is; air:
BOOK II (cont.)
and not even that always the same, but every minute
belched forth and again gulped down. Then, thirdly, there
is the ruling Reason. Put thy thought thus: thou art an old
man; let this be a thrall no longer, no more a puppet
pulled aside by every selfish impulse; nor let it grumble
any longer at what is allotted to it in the present or dread it
in the future.
3. Full of Providence are the works of the Gods, nor are
Fortune's works independent of Nature or of the woven
texture and interlacement of all that is under the control of
Providence. Thence are all things derived; but Necessity
too plays its part and the Welfare of the whole Universe of
which thou art a portion. But good for every part of Nature
is that which the Nature of the Whole brings about, and
which goes to preserve it. Now it is the changes not only of
the elements but of the things compounded of them that
preserve the Universe. Let these reflections suffice thee, if
thou hold them as principles. But away with thy thirst for
books, that thou mayest die not murmuring but with a
good grace, truly and from thy heart grateful to the Gods.
4. Call to mind how long thou deferrest these things, and
how many times thou hast received from the Gods grace
of the appointed day and thou usest it not. Yet now, if
never before, shouldest thou realize of what Universe thou
art a part, and as an emanation from what Controller of
that Universe thou dost subsist; and that a limit has been
set to thy time, which if thou use not to let daylight
BOOK II (cont.)
into thy soul, it will be gone—and thou!—and never again
shall the chance be thine.
5. Every hour make up thy mind sturdily as a Roman
and a man to do what thou hast in hand with scrupulous
and unaffected dignity and love of thy kind and
independence and justice; and to give thyself rest from all
other impressions. And thou wilt give thyself this, if thou
dost execute every act of thy life as though it were thy
last, divesting thyself of all aimlessness and all
passionate antipathy to the convictions of reason, and all
hypocrisy and self-love and dissatisfaction with thy allotted
share. Thou seest how few are the things, by mastering
which a man may lead a life of tranquillity and godlikeness;
for the Gods also will ask no more from him who keeps
6. Wrong thyself, wrong thyself, O my Soul! But the
time for honouring thyself will have gone by; for a man has
but one life, and this for thee is well-nigh closed, and yet
thou dost not hold thyself in reverence, but settest thy well-
being in the souls of others.
7. Do those things draw thee at all away, which befall
thee from without? Make then leisure for thyself for the
learning of some good thing more, and cease being carried
aside hither and thither. But therewith must thou take heed
of the other error. For they too are triflers, who by their
activities have worn themselves out in life without even
having an aim whereto they can direct every impulse, aye
and even every thought.
BOOK II (cont.)
8. Not easily is a man found to be unhappy by reason of
his not regarding what is going on in another man's soul;
but those who do not attend closely to the motions of their
own souls must inevitably be unhappy.
9. This must always be borne in mind, what is the
Nature of the whole Universe, and what mine, and how this
stands in relation to that, being too what sort of a part of
what sort of a whole; and that no one can prevent thee
from doing and saying always what is in keeping with the
Nature of which thou art a part.
10. Theophrastus in his comparison of
wrongdoings—for, speaking in a somewhat popular way,
such comparison may be made—says in the true
philosophical spirit that the offences which are due to lust
are more heinous than those which are due to anger. For
the man who is moved with anger seems to turn his back
upon reason with some pain and unconscious
compunction; but he that does wrong from lust, being
mastered by pleasure, seems in some sort to be more
incontinent and more unmanly in his wrong-doing. Rightly
then, and not unworthily of a philosopher, he said that the
wrongdoing which is allied with pleasure calls for a severer
condemnation than that which is allied with pain; and,
speaking generally, that the one wrong-doer is more like a
man, who, being sinned against first, has been driven by
pain to be angry, while the other, being led by lust to do
some act, has of his own motion been impelled to do evil.
11. Let thine every deed and word and thought be those
of a man who can depart from life this moment? But to go
away from among men, if
BOOK II (cont.)
there are Gods, is nothing dreadful; for they would not
involve thee in evil. But if indeed there are no Gods, or if
they do not concern themselves with the affairs of men,
what boots it for me to live in a Universe empty of Gods or
empty of Providence? Nay, but there are Gods, and they
do concern themselves with human things; and they have
put it wholly in man's power not to fall into evils that are
truly such. And had there been any evil in what lies
beyond, for this too would they have made provision, that it
should be in every man's power not to fall into it. But how
can that make a man's life worse which does not make the
man worse? Yet the Nature of the Whole could not have
been guilty of an oversight from ignorance or, while
cognizant of these things, through lack of power to guard
against or amend them; nor could it have gone so far
amiss either from inability or unskilfulness, as to allow
good and evil to fall without any discrimination alike upon
the evil and the good. Still it is a fact that death and life,
honour and dishonour, pain and pleasure, riches and
penury, do among men one and all betide the Good and
the Evil alike, being in themselves neither honourable nor
shameful. Consequently they are neither good nor evil.
12. How quickly all things vanish away, in the Universe
their actual bodies, and the remembrance of them in
Eternity, and of what character are all objects of sense,
and particularly those that entice us with pleasure or terrify
us with pain or are acclaimed by vanity—how worthless
and despicable and unclean and ephemeral and
dead!—this is for our faculty of intelligence to apprehend;
as also what they really are whose conceptions and whose
BOOK II (cont.)
renown; what it is to die, and that if a man look at death in
itself, and with the analysis of reason strip it of its phantom
terrors, no longer will he conceive it to be aught but a
function of Nature,—but if a man be frightened by a
function of Nature, he is childish; and this is not only
Nature's function but her welfare;—and how man is in
touch with God and with what part of himself, and in what
disposition of this portion of the man.
13. Nothing can be more miserable than the man who
goes through the whole round of things, and, as the poet
says, pries into the things beneath the earth, and would
fain guess the thoughts in his neighbour's heart, while
having no conception that he needs but to associate
himself with the divine 'genius' in his bosom, and to serve
it truly. And service of it is to keep it pure from passion and
aimlessness and discontent with anything that proceeds
from Gods or men. For that which proceeds from the Gods
is worthy of reverence in that it is excellent; and that which
proceeds from men, of love, in that they are akin, and, at
times and in a manner, of compassion, in that they are
ignorant of good and evil—a defect this no less than the
loss of power to distinguish between white and black.
14. Even if thy life is to last three thousand years or for
the matter of that thirty thousand, yet bear in mind that no
one ever parts with any other life than
BOOK II (cont.)
the one he is now living, nor lives any other than that
which he now parts with. The longest life, then, and the
shortest amount but to the same. For the present time is of
equal duration for all, while that which we lose is not ours;
and consequently what is parted with is obviously a
mere moment. No man can part with either the past or the
future. For how can a man be deprived of what he does
not possess? These two things, then, must needs be
remembered: the one, that all things from time everlasting
have been cast in the same mould and repeated cycle
after cycle, and so it makes no difference whether a man
see the same things recur through a hundred years or two
hundred, or through eternity: the other, that the longest
liver and he whose time to die comes soonest part with no
more the one than the other. For it is but the present that a
man can be deprived of, if, as is the fact, it is this alone
that he has, and what he has not a man cannot part with.
15. Remember that everything is but what we think it.
For obvious indeed is the saying fathered on Monimus the
Cynic, obvious too the utility of what was said, if one
accept the gist of it as far as it is true.
16. The soul of man does wrong to itself then most of
all, when it makes itself, as far as it can do so, an
imposthume and as it were a malignant growth in the
Universe. For to grumble at anything that happens is a
rebellion against Nature, in some part of which are bound
up the natures of all other things. And the soul wrongs
itself then again, when it turns away from any man or even
opposes him with
BOOK II (cont.)
intent to do him harm, as is the case with those who are
angry. It does wrong to itself, thirdly, when it is overcome
by pleasure or pain. Fourthly, when it assumes a mask,
and in act or word is insincere or untruthful. Fifthly, when it
directs some act or desire of its own towards no mark, and
expends its energy on any thing whatever aimlessly and
unadvisedly, whereas even the most trifling things should
be done with reference to the end in view. Now the end for
rational beings is to submit themselves to the reason and
law of that archetypal city and polity—the Universe.
17. Of the life of man the duration is but a point, its
substance streaming away, its perception dim, the fabric of
the entire body prone to decay, and the soul a vortex, and
fortune incalculable, and fame uncertain. In a word all the
things of the body are as a river, and the things of the soul
as a dream and a vapour; and life is a warfare and a
pilgrim's sojourn, and fame after death is only
forgetfulness. What then is it that can help us on our way?
One thing and one alone—Philosophy; and this consists in
keeping the divine 'genius' within pure and unwronged,
lord of all pleasures and pains, doing nothing aimlessly or
with deliberate falsehood and hypocrisy, independent of
another's action or inaction; and furthermore welcoming
what happens and is allotted, as issuing from the same
source, whatever it be, from which the man himself has
issued; and above all waiting for death with a good grace
as being but a setting free of the elements of which every
thing living is made up. But if there
BOOK II (cont.)
be nothing terrible in each thing being continuously
changed into another thing, why should a man look
askance at the change and dissolution of all things? For it
is in the way of Nature, and in the way of Nature there can
be no evil.
Written at Camuntum.
Now Haimburg in Hungary.
1. We ought not to think only upon the fact that our life
each day is waning away, what is left of it being ever less,
but this also should be a subject for thought, that even if life
be prolonged, yet is it uncertain whether the mind will remain
equally fitted in the future for the understanding of facts and
for that contemplation which strains after the knowledge of
things divine and human. For if a man has entered upon his
dotage, there will still be his the power of breathing, and
digestion, and thought, and desire, and all such-like
faculties; but the full use of himself, the accurate
appreciation of the items of duty, the nice discrimination of
what presents itself to the senses, and a clear judgment on
the question whether it is time for him to end his own life,
and all such decisions, as above all require well-trained
powers of reasoning— these are already flickering out in
him. It needs, then, that we should press onwards, not only
BOOK III (cont.)
we come each moment nearer to death, but also because
our insight into facts and our close touch of them is gradually
ceasing even before we die.
2. Such things as this also we ought to note with care,
that the accessories too of natural operations have a charm
and attractiveness of their own. For instance, when bread is
in the baking, some of the parts split open, and these very
fissures, though in a sense thwarting the bread-maker's
design, have an appropriateness of their own and in a
peculiar way stimulate the desire for food. Again when figs
are at their ripest, they gape open; and in olives that are
ready to fall their very approach to over-ripeness gives a
peculiar beauty to the fruit. And the full ears of corn bending
downwards, and the lion's beetling brows, and the foam
dripping from the jaws of the wild-boar, and many other
things, though, if looked at apart from their setting, they are
far from being comely, yet, as resultants from the operations
of Nature, lend them an added charm and entice our
And so, if a man has sensibility and a deeper insight into
the workings of the Universe, scarcely anything, though it
exist only as a secondary consequence to something else,
but will seem to him to form in its own peculiar way a
pleasing adjunct to the whole. And he will look on the actual
gaping jaws of wild beasts with no less pleasure than the
representations of them by limners and modellers; and he
will be able to see in the aged of either sex a mature prime
and comely ripeness, and gaze with chaste eyes
upon the alluring loveliness of the young. And many such
things there are which do not appeal to everyone, but will
come home to him alone who is genuinely intimate with
Nature and her works.
3. Hippocrates, after healing many a sick man, fell sick
himself and died. Many a death have Chaldaeans foretold,
and then their own fate has overtaken them also.
Alexander, Pompeius and Gaius Caesar times without
number utterly destroyed whole cities, and cut to pieces
many myriads of horse and foot on the field of battle, yet the
day came when they too departed this life. Heraclitus, after
endless speculations on the destruction of the world by fire,
came to be filled internally with water, and died beplastered
with cowdung. And lice caused the death of Democritus,
and other vermin of Socrates.
What of this? Thou hast gone aboard, thou hast set sail,
thou hast touched land; go ashore; if indeed for another life,
there is nothing even there void of Gods; but if to a state of
non-sensation, thou shalt cease being at the mercy of
pleasure and pain and lackeying the bodily vessel which is
so much baser than that which ministers to it. For the one is
intelligence and a divine 'genius,' the other dust and
4. Fritter not away what is left of thy life in thoughts about
others, unless thou canst bring these thoughts into relation
with some common interest. For verily thou dost hereby cut
thyself off from other work, that is, by thinking what so and
BOOK III (cont.)
doing and why, what he is saying, having what in mind,
contriving what, and all the many like things such as whirl
thee aside from keeping close watch over thine own ruling
We ought therefore to eschew the aimless and the
unprofitable in the chain of our thoughts, still more all that is
over-curious and ill-natured, and a man should accustom
himself to think only of those things about which, if one were
to ask on a sudden, What is now in thy thoughts? thou
couldest quite frankly answer at once, This or that; so that
thine answer should immediately make manifest that all that
is in thee is simple and kindly and worthy of a living being
that is social and has no thought for pleasures or for the
entire range of sensual images, or for any rivalry, envy,
suspicion, or anything else, whereat thou wouldest blush to
admit that thou hadst it in thy mind.
For in truth such a man, one who no longer puts off being
reckoned now, if never before, among the best, is in some
sort a priest and minister of the Gods, putting to use also
that which, enthroned within him, keeps the man unstained
by pleasures, invulnerable to all pain, beyond the touch of
any wrong, proof against all evil, a champion in the highest
of championships—that of never being overthrown by any
passion—dyed in grain with justice, welcoming with all his
soul everything that befalls and is allotted him, and seldom,
nor yet without a great and a general necessity, concerning
himself with the words or deeds or thoughts of another.
BOOK III (cont.)
For it is only the things which relate to himself that he brings
within the scope of his activities, and he never ceases to
ponder over what is being spun for him as his share in the
fabric of the Universe, and he sees to it that the former are
worthy, and is assured that the latter is good. For the fate
which is allotted to each man is swept along with him in the
Universe as well as sweeps him along with it.
And he bears in mind that all that is rational is akin, and
that it is in man's nature to care for all men, and that we
should not embrace the opinion of all, but of those alone who
live in conscious agreement with Nature. But what sort of
men they, whose life is not after this pattern, are at home
and abroad, by night and in the day, in what vices they
wallow and with whom—of this he is ever mindful.
Consequently he takes no account of praise from such men,
who in fact cannot even win their own approval.
5. Do that thou doest neither unwillingly nor selfishly nor
without examination nor against the grain. Dress not thy
thought in too fine a garb. Be not a man of superfluous
words or superfluous deeds. Moreover let the god that is in
thee be lord of a living creature, that is manly, and of full
age, and concerned with statecraft, and a Roman, and a
ruler, who hath taken his post as one who awaits the signal
of recall from life in all readiness, needing no oath nor any
man as his voucher. Be thine the cheery face and
independence of help from without and independence of
such ease as others can give. It needs then to stand, and
not be set, upright.
BOOK III (cont.)
6. If indeed thou findest in the life of man a better thing
than justice, than truth, than temperance, than manliness,
and, in a word, than thy mind's satisfaction with itself in
things wherein it shews thee acting according to the true
dictates of reason, and with destiny in what is allotted thee
apart from thy choice—if, I say, thou seest anything better
than this, turn to it with all thy soul and take thy fill of the
best, as thou findest it.
But if there appears nothing better than the very deity
enthroned in thee, which has brought into subjection to itself
all individual desires, which scrutinizes the thoughts, and, in
the words of Socrates, has withdrawn itself from all the
enticements of the senses, and brought itself into subjection
to the Gods, and cherishes a fellow-feeling for men—if thou
findest everything else pettier and of less account than this,
give place to nought else, to which if thou art but once
plucked aside, and incline thereto, never more shalt thou be
able without distraction to give paramount honour to that
good which is thine own peculiar heritage. For it is not right
that any extraneous thing at all, such as the praise of the
many, or office, or wealth, or indulgence in pleasure, should
avail against that good which is identical with reason and a
civic spirit. All these things, even if they seem for a little to fit
smoothly into our lives, on a sudden overpower us and
sweep us away.
But do thou, I say, simply and freely choose the better and
hold fast to it. But that is the better which is to my interest. If
it is to thy interest as a rational creature, hold that fast; but if
as a mere animal, declare it boldly and maintain thy
BOOK III (cont.)
arrogance. Only see to it that thou hast made thy enquiry
7. Prize not anything as being to thine interest that shall
ever force thee to break thy troth, to surrender thine honour,
to hate, suspect, or curse anyone, to play the hypocrite, to
lust after anything that needs walls and curtains. For he that
has chosen before all else his own intelligence and good
'genius,' and to be a devotee of its supreme worth, does not
strike a tragic attitude or whine, nor will he ask for either a
wilderness or a concourse of men; above all he will live
neither chasing anything nor shunning it. And he recks not at
all whether he is to have his soul overlaid with his body for a
longer or a shorter span of time, for even if he must take his
departure at once, he will go as willingly as if he were to
discharge any other function that can be discharged with
decency and orderliness, making sure through life of this one
thing, that his thoughts should not in any case assume a
character out of keeping with a rational and civic creature.
8. In the mind of the man that has been chastened and
thoroughly cleansed thou wilt find no foul abscess or
gangrene or hidden sore. Nor is his life cut short, when the
day of destiny overtakes him, as we might say of a
tragedian's part, who leaves the stage before finishing his
speech and playing out the piece. Furthermore there is
nothing there slavish or affected, no dependence on others
or severance from them, no sense of accountability or
skulking to avoid it.
9. Hold sacred thy capacity for forming opinions.
BOOK III (cont.)
With that it rests wholly that thy ruling Reason should never
admit any opinion out of harmony with Nature, and with the
constitution of a rational creature. This ensures due
deliberation and fellowship with mankind and fealty to the
10. Jettison everything else, then, and lay hold of these
things only, few as they are; and remember withal that it is
only this present, a moment of time, that a man lives: all the
rest either has been lived or may never be. Little indeed,
then, is a man's life, and little the nook of earth whereon he
lives, and little even the longest after-fame, and that too
handed on through a succession of manikins, each one of
them very soon to be dead, with no knowledge even of
themselves, let alone of a man who has died long since.
11. To the stand-bys mentioned add yet another, that a
definition or delineation should be made of every object that
presents itself, so that we may see what sort of thing it is in
its essence stripped of its adjuncts, a separate whole taken
as such, and tell over with ourselves both its particular
designation and the names of the elements that compose it
and into which it will be disintegrated.
For nothing is so conducive to greatness of mind as the
ability to examine systematically and honestly everything
that meets us in life, and to regard these things always in
such a way as to form a conception of the kind of Universe
they belong to, and of the use which the thing in question
subserves in it; what value it has for the whole Universe and
what for man, citizen as he is of the highest state, of which
all other states are but as households; what it actually is, and
BOOK III (cont.)
of what elements, and likely to last how long—namely
this that now gives me the impression in question;
and what virtue it calls for from me, such as
gentleness, manly courage, truth, fidelity, guilelessness,
independence, and the rest.
In each case therefore must thou say: This has come
from God; and this is due to the conjunction of fate and the
contexture of the world's web and some such coincidence
and chance; while that comes from a clansman and a
kinsman and a neighbour, albeit one who is ignorant of what
is really in accordance with his nature. But I am not ignorant,
therefore I treat him kindly and justly, in accordance with the
natural law of neighbourliness; at the same time, of things
that are neither good nor bad, my aim is to hit their true
12. If in obedience to right reason thou doest the thing
that thy hand findeth to do earnestly, manfully, graciously,
and in no sense as a by-work, and keepest that divine
'genius' of thine in its virgin state, just as if even now thou
wert called upon to restore it to the Giver—if thou grapple
this to thee, looking for nothing, shrinking from nothing, but
content with a present sphere of activity such as Nature
allows, and with chivalrous truth in every word and utterance
of thy tongue, thou shalt be happy in thy life. And there is no
one that is able to prevent this.
13. Just as physicians always keep their lancets and
instruments ready to their hands for emergency operations,
so also do thou keep thine axioms ready for the diagnosis of
things human and divine, and
BOOK III (cont.)
for the performing of every act, even the pettiest, with the
fullest consciousness of the mutual ties between these two.
For thou shalt never carry out well any human duty unless
thou correlate it to the divine, nor the reverse.
14. Go astray no more; for thou art not likely to read thy
little Memoranda? or the Acts of the Romans and the Greeks
of Old Time? and the extracts from their writings which thou
wast laying up against thine old age. Haste then to the
consummation and, casting away all empty hopes, if thou
carest aught for thy welfare, come to thine own rescue, while
it is allowed thee.
15. They know not how full of meaning are—to thieve, to
sow, to buy, to be at peace, to see what needs doing, and
this is not a matter for the eye but for another sort of sight.
16. Body, Soul, Intelligence: for the body sensations, for
the soul desires, for the intelligence axioms. To receive
impressions by way of the senses is not denied even to
cattle; to be as puppets pulled by the strings of desire is
common to wild beasts and to pathics and to a Phalaris and
a Nero. Yet to have the intelligence a guide to what they
deem their duty is an attribute of those also who do not
believe in Gods and those who fail their country in its need
and those who do their deeds behind closed doors.
If then all else is the common property of the
BOOK III (cont.)
classes mentioned, there is left as the characteristic of the
good man to delight in and to welcome what befalls and
what is being spun for him by destiny; and not to sully the
divine 'genius' that is enthroned in his bosom, nor yet to
perplex it with a multitude of impressions, but to maintain it
to the end in a gracious serenity, in orderly obedience to
God, uttering no word that is not true and doing no deed
that is not just. But if all men disbelieve in his living a
simple and modest and cheerful life, he is not wroth with
any of them, nor swerves from the path which leads to his
life's goal, whither he must go pure, peaceful, ready for
release, needing no force to bring him into accord with his
1. That which holds the mastery within us, when it is in
accordance with Nature, is so disposed towards what befalls, that
it can always adapt itself with ease to what is possible and granted
us. For it is wedded to no definite material, but, though in the
pursuit of its high aims it works under reservations, yet it converts
into material for itself any obstacle that it meets with, just as fire
when it gets the mastery of what is thrown in upon it. A little flame
would have been stifled by it, but the blazing fire instantly
assimilates what is cast upon it and, consuming it, leaps the higher
2. Take no act in hand aimlessly or otherwise than in
accordance with the true principles perfective of the art.
3. Men seek out retreats for themselves in the country, by the
seaside, on the mountains, and thou too art wont to long above all
for such things. But all this is unphilosophical to the last degree,
when thou canst at a moment's notice retire into thyself. For
nowhere can a man find a retreat more full of
BOOK IV (cont.)
peace or more free from care than his own soul—above all if he
have that within him, a steadfast look at which and he is at once
in all good ease, and by good ease I mean nothing other than
good order. Make use then of this retirement continually and
regenerate thyself. Let thy axioms be short and elemental, such as
when set before thee will at once rid thee of all trouble, and send
thee away with no discontent at those things to which thou art
Why with what art thou discontented? The wickedness of men?
Take this conclusion to heart, that rational creatures have been
made for one another; that forbearance is part of justice; that
wrong-doing is involuntary; and think how many ere now, after
passing their lives in implacable enmity, suspicion, hatred, and at
daggers drawn with one another, have been laid out and burnt to
ashes—think of this, I say, and at last stay thy fretting. But art thou
discontented with thy share in the whole? Recall the alternative:
Either Providence or Atoms and the abundant proofs there are
that the Universe is as it were a state. But is it the affections of the
body that shall still lay hold on thee? Bethink thee that the
Intelligence, when it has once abstracted itself and learnt its own
power, has nothing to do with the motions smooth or rough of the
vital breath. Bethink thee too of all that thou hast heard and
subscribed to about pleasure and pain.
But will that paltry thing, Fame, pluck thee aside? Look at the
swift approach of complete forgetfulness,
BOOK IV (cont.)
and the void of infinite time on this side of us and on that, and the
empty echo of acclamation, and the fickleness and uncritical
judgment of those who claim to speak well of us, and the
narrowness of the arena to which all this is confined. For the whole
earth is but a point, and how tiny a corner of it is this the place of
our sojourning! and how many therein and of what sort are the
men who shall praise thee.
From now therefore bethink thee of the retreat into this little plot
that is thyself. Above all distract not thyself, be not too eager, but
be thine own master, and look upon life as a man, as a human
being, as a citizen, as a mortal creature. But among the principles
readiest to thine hand, upon which thou shalt pore, let there be
these two. One, that objective things do not lay hold of the soul,
but stand quiescent without; while disturbances are but the
outcome of that opinion which is within us. A second, that all this
visible world changes in a moment, and will be no more; and
continually bethink thee to the changes of how many things thou
hast already been a witness. 'The Universe—mutation:
4. If the intellectual capacity is common to us all, common too
is the reason, which makes us rational creatures. If so, that reason
also is common which tells us to do or not to do. If so, law also is
common. If so, we are citizens. If so, we are fellow-members of an
organised community. If so, the Universe is as it were a state
—for of what
BOOK IV (cont.)
other single polity can the whole race of mankind be said to be
fellow-members?—and from it, this common State, we get the
intellectual, the rational, and the legal instinct, or whence do we
get them? For just as the earthy part has been portioned off for
me from some earth, and the watery from another element, and
the aerial from some source, and the hot and fiery from some
source of its own—for nothing comes from the non-existent, any
more than it disappears into nothingness—so also the intellect has
undoubtedly come from somewhere.
5. Death like birth is a secret of Nature—a combination of the
same elements, a breaking up into the same—and not at all a
thing in fact for any to be ashamed of, for it is not out of keeping
with an intellectual creature or the reason of his equipment.
6. Given such men, it was in the nature of the case inevitable
that their conduct should be of this kind. To wish it otherwise, is to
wish that the fig tree had no acrid juice. As a general conclusion
call this to mind, that within a very short time both thou and he will
be dead, and a little later not even your names will be left behind
7. Efface the opinion, I am harmed, and at once the feeling of
being harmed disappears; efface the feeling, and the harm
disappears at once.
8. That which does not make a man himself worse than
before cannot make his life worse either, nor injure it whether from
without or within.
9. The nature of the general good could not but have acted so.
BOOK IV (cont.)
10. Note that all that befalls befalleth justly. Keep close
watch and thou wilt find this true, I do not say, as a matter
of sequence merely but as a matter of justice also, and as
would be expected from One whose dispensation is based
on desert. Keep close watch, then, as thou hast begun,
and whatsoever thou doest, do it as only a good man
should in the strictest sense of that word. In every sphere of
activity safeguard this.
11. Harbour no such opinions as he holds who does
thee violence, or as he would have thee hold. See things in
all their naked reality.
12. Thou shouldest have these two readinesses always
at hand; the one which prompts thee to do only what thy
reason in its royal and law-making capacity shall suggest
for the good of mankind; the other to change thy mind, if
one be near to set thee right, and convert thee from some
vain conceit. But this conversion should be the outcome of
a persuasion in every case that the thing is just or to the
common interest—and some such cause should be the
only one—not because it is seemingly pleasant or popular.
13. Hast thou reason? I have. Why then not use it? For
if this performs its part, what else wouldest thou have?
14. Thou hast subsisted as part of the Whole. Thou
shalt vanish into that which begat thee, or rather thou shalt
be taken again into its Seminal Reason by a process of
15. Many little pellets of frankincense fall upon the same
altar, some are cast on it sooner, some later: but it makes
BOOK IV (cont.)
16. Ere ten days are past, thou shalt rank as a god with
them that hold thee now a wild-beast or an ape, if thou but
turn back to thy axioms and thy reverence of reason.
17. Behave not as though thou hadst ten thousand years
to live. Thy doom hangs over thee. While thou livest, while
thou mayest, become good.
18. What richness of leisure doth he gain who has no eye
for his neighbour's words or deeds or thoughts, but only for
his own doings, that they be just and righteous! Verily it is
not for the good man to peer about into the blackness of
another's heart, but to ‘run straight for the goal with never a
19. He whose heart flutters for after-fame does not reflect
that very soon every one of those who remember him, and
he himself, will be dead, and their successors again after
them, until at last the entire recollection of the man will be
extinct, handed on as it is by links that flare up and are
quenched. But put the case that those who are to remember
are even immortal, and the remembrance immortal, what
then is that to thee? To the dead man, I need scarcely say,
the praise is nothing, but what is it to the living, except,
indeed, in a subsidiary way? For thou dost reject the bounty
of nature unseasonably in the present, and clingest to what
others shall say of thee hereafter.
BOOK IV (cont.)
20. Everything, which has any sort of beauty of its own, is
beautiful of itself, and looks no further than itself, not counting
praise as part of itself. For indeed that which is praised is
made neither better nor worse thereby. This is true also of the
things that in common parlance are called beautiful, such as
material things and works of art. Does, then, the truly beautiful
need anything beyond? Nay, no more than law, than truth,
than kindness, than modesty. Which of these owes its beauty
to being praised, or loses it by being blamed? What Does
an emerald forfeit its excellence by not being praised? Does
gold, ivory, purple, a lyre, a poniard, a floweret, a shrub?
21. If souls outlive their bodies, how does the air contain
them from times beyond ken? How does the earth contain
the bodies of those who have been buried in it for such
endless ages? For just as on earth the change of these
bodies, after continuance for a certain indefinite time, followed
by dissolution, makes room for other dead bodies, so souls,
when transferred into the air, after lasting for a certain time,
suffer change and are diffused and become fire, being taken
again into the Seminal Reason of the Whole, and so allow
room for those that subsequently take up their abode there.
This would be the answer one would give on the assumption
that souls outlive their bodies.
But not only must the multitude of bodies thus constantly
being buried be taken into account, but also that of the
creatures devoured daily by ourselves
BOOK IV (cont.)
and the other animals. How great is the number consumed and
thus in a way buried in the bodies of those who feed upon
them! And yet room is made for them all by their conversion
into blood, by their transmutation into air or fire.
Where in this case lies the way of search for the truth? In a
separation of the Material from the Causal.
22. Be not whirled aside; but in every impulse fulfil the
claims of justice, and in every impression safeguard certainty.
23. All that is in tune with thee, O Universe, is in tune with
me! Nothing that is in due time for thee is too early or too late
for me! All that thy seasons bring, O Nature, is fruit for me! All
things come from thee, subsist in thee, go back to thee. There
is one who says Dear City of Cecrops! Wilt thou not say O
dear City of Zeus?
24. If thou wouldest be tranquil in heart, says the Sage, do
not many things. Is not this a better maxim? do but what is
needful, and what the reason of a living creature born for a
civic life demands, and as it demands. For this brings the
tranquillity which comes of doing few things no less than of
doing them well. For nine-tenths of our words and deeds being
unnecessary, if a man retrench there, he will have more
abundant leisure and fret the less. Wherefore forget not on
every occasion to ask thyself, Is this one of the unnecessary
things? But we must retrench not only actions but thoughts
BOOK IV (cont.)
unnecessary, for then neither will superfluous actions follow.
25. Try living the life of the good man who is more than content
with what is allotted to him out of the whole, and is satisfied with
his own acts as just and his own disposition as kindly: see how
26. Hast thou looked on that side of the picture? Look now on
this! Fret not thyself; study to be simple. Does a man do wrong?
The wrong rests with him. Has something befallen thee? It is
well. Everything that befalls was from the beginning destined and
spun for thee as thy share out of the Whole. To sum up, life is
short. Make profit of the present by right reasoning and justice. In
thy relaxation be sober.
27. Either there is a well-arranged Order of things, or a maze,
indeed, but not without a plan. Or can a sort of order subsist in
thee, while in the Universe there is no order, and that too when all
things, though separated and dispersed, are still in sympathetic
28. A black character, an unmanly character, an obstinate
character, inhuman, animal, childish, stupid, counterfeit, cringing,
29. If he is an alien in the Universe who has no cognizance of
the things that are in it, no less is he an alien who has no
cognizance of what is happening in it. He is an exile, who exiles
himself from civic
BOOK IV (cont.)
reason; blind, he who will not see with the eyes of his
understanding; a beggar, he who is dependent on another, and
cannot draw from his own resources all that his life requires; an
imposthume on the Universe, he who renounces, and severs
himself from, the reason of our common Nature, because he is ill
pleased at what happens—for the same Nature brings this into
being, that also brought thee; a limb cut off from the community,
he who cuts off his own soul from the soul of all rational things,
which is but one.
30. One philosopher goes without a shirt, a second without a
book, a third yonder half-naked: says he, I am starving for bread,
yet cleave I fast to Reason; and I too: I get no fruit of my learning,
yet cleave I to her.
31. Cherish the art, though humble, that thou hast learned, and
take thy rest therein; and pass through the remainder of thy days
as one that with his whole soul has given all that is his in trust to
the Gods, and has made of himself neither a tyrant nor a slave to
32. Think by way of illustration upon the times of Vespasian,
and thou shalt see all these things: mankind marrying, rearing
children, sickening, dying, warring, making holiday, trafficking,
tilling, flattering others, vaunting themselves, suspecting,
scheming, praying for the death of others, murmuring at their own
lot, loving, hoarding, coveting a consulate, coveting a kingdom.
Not a vestige of that life of theirs is left anywhere any longer.
Change the scene again to the times of Trajan. Again it is all
the same; that life too is dead. In like
BOOK IV (cont.)
manner contemplate all the other records of past time and of
entire nations, and see how many after all their high-strung efforts
sank down so soon in death and were resolved into the elements.
But above all must thou dwell in thought upon those whom thou
hast thyself known, who, following after vanity, neglected to do the
things that accorded with their own constitution and, cleaving
steadfastly thereto, to be content with them. And here it is
essential to remember that a due sense of value and proportion
should regulate the care bestowed on every action. For thus wilt
thou never give over in disgust, if thou busy not thyself beyond
what is right with the lesser things.
33. Expressions once in use are now obsolete. So also the
names of those much be-sung heroes of old are in some sense
obsolete, Camillus, Caeso, Volesus, Dentatus, and a little later
Scipio and Cato, then also Augustus, and then Hadrianus and
Antoninus. For all things quickly fade away and become
legendary, and soon absolute oblivion encairns them. And here I
speak of those who made an extraordinary blaze in the world. For
the rest, as soon as the breath is out of their bodies, it is, Out of
sight, out of mind. But what, when all is said, is even everlasting
remembrance? Wholly vanity. What then is it that calls for our
devotion? This one thing: justice in thought, in act unselfishness
and a tongue that cannot lie and a disposition ready to welcome
all that befalls as unavoidable, as familiar, as issuing from a like
origin and fountain-head.
BOOK IV (cont.)
34. Offer thyself whole-heartedly to Clotho, letting her spin thy
thread to serve what purpose soever she will.
35. Ephemeral all of them, the rememberer as well as the
36. Unceasingly contemplate the generation of all things
through change, and accustom thyself to the thought that the
Nature of the Universe delights above all in changing the things
that exist and making new ones of the same pattern. For in a
manner everything that exists is the seed of that which shall come
out of it. But thou imaginest that only to be seed that is deposited
in the earth or the womb, a view beyond measure unphilosophical.
37. A moment and thou wilt be dead; and not even yet art thou
simple, nor unperturbed, nor free from all suspicion that thou
canst be injured by externals, nor gracious to all, nor convinced
that wisdom and just dealing are but one.
38. Consider narrowly their ruling Reason, and see what wise
men avoid and what they seek after.
39. Harm to thee cannot depend on another's ruling Reason,
nor yet on any vagary or phase of thy environment. On what then?
On the power that is thine of judging what is evil. Let this, then,
pass no judgment, and all is well. Even if its closest associate, the
poor body, be cut, be burnt, fester, gangrene, yet let the part
which forms a judgment about these things hold its peace, that is,
let it assume nothing to be either good or bad, which can befall a
good man or a bad indifferently. For that which befalls alike the
man who lives by the
BOOK IV (cont.)
rule and the man who lives contrary to the rule of Nature, is
neither in accordance with Nature nor contrary to it.
40. Cease not to think of the Universe as one living Being,
possessed of a single Substance and a single Soul; and how all
things trace back to its single sentience; and how it does all
things by a single impulse; and how all existing things are joint
causes of all things that come into existence; and how intertwined
in the fabric is the thread and how closely woven the web.
41. Thou art a little soul bearing up a corpse, as Epictetus
42. Nothing is evil to that which is subject to change, even as
there is no good for that which exists as the result of change.
43. As a river consisting of all things that come into being, aye,
a rushing torrent, is Time. No sooner is a thing sighted than it is
carried past, and lo, another is passing, and it too will be carried
44. Everything that happens is as usual and familiar, as the
rose in spring and the fruit in summer. The same applies to
disease and death and slander and treachery and all that
gladdens the foolish or saddens them.
45. That which comes after always has a close relationship to
what has gone before. For it is not like some enumeration of items
separately taken and following a mere hard and fast sequence,
but there is a rational connection; and just as existing things have
been combined in a harmonious order, so also
BOOK IV (cont.)
all that comes into being bears the stamp not of a mere
succession but of a wonderful relationship.
46. Always bear in mind what Heraclitus said: The death of
earth is to pass into water, and the death of water to pass into air,
and of air to pass into fire, and so back again. Bear in mind too
the wayfarer who forgets the trend of his way, and that men are at
variance with the one thing with which they are in the most
unbroken communion, the Reason that administers the whole
Universe; and that what they encounter every day, this they
deem strange; and that we must not act and speak like men
asleep,—for in fact even in sleep we seem to act and
speak;—and that there should be nothing of the children from
parents style, that is, no mere perfunctory what our fathers
have told us.
47. Just as, if a God had told thee, Thou shall die tomorrow or
in any case the day after, thou wouldest no longer count it of any
consequence whether it were the day after to-morrow or
tomorrow, unless thou art in the last degree mean-spirited, for
how little is the difference!—so also deem it but a trifling thing
that thou shouldest die after ever so many years rather than
48. Cease not to bear in mind how many physicians are dead
after puckering up their brows so often over their patients; and
how many astrologers after making a great parade of predicting
the death of others; and how many philosophers after endless
disquisitions on death and immortality; how many great captains
after butchering thousands; how many tyrants after exercising
with revolting insolence
BOOK IV (cont.)
their power of life and death, as though themselves immortal; and
how many entire cities are, if I may use the expression, dead,
Helice and Pompeii and Herculaneum, and others without
Turn also to all, one after another, that come within thine own
knowledge. One closed a friend's eyes and was then himself laid
out, and the friend who closed his, he too was laid out—and all
this in a few short years. In a word, fail not to note how short-lived
are all mortal things, and how paltry—yesterday a little mucus,
tomorrow a mummy or burnt ash. Pass then through this tiny
span of time in accordance with Nature, and come to thy journey's
end with a good grace, just as an olive falls when it is fully ripe,
praising the earth that bare it and grateful to the tree that gave it
49. Be like a headland of rock on which the waves break
incessantly; but it stands fast and around it the seething of the
waters sinks to rest.
Ah, unlucky am I, that this has befallen me! Nay, but rather,
lucky am I that, though this has befallen me, yet am I still unhurt,
neither crushed by the present nor dreading the future. For
something of the kind could have befallen everyone, but everyone
would not have remained unhurt in spite of it. Why then count that rather a misfortune than this a good fortune? And in any case
dost thou reckon that a misfortune for a man which is not a
miscarriage from his nature? And wouldst thou have that to be an
aberration from a man's nature, which does not contravene the
will of his nature! What then? This will thou hast learnt to know.
Does what has befallen thee hinder thee one whit from being just,
BOOK IV (cont.)
high-minded, chaste, sensible, deliberate, straightforward,
modest, free, and from possessing all the other qualities, the
presence of which enables a man's nature to come fully into its
own? Forget not in future, when anything would lead thee to feel
hurt, to take thy stand upon this axiom: This is no misfortune, but
to bear it nobly is good fortune.
50. An unphilosophical but none the less an effective help to
the contemning of death is to tell over the names of those who
have clung long and tenaciously to life. How are they better off
than those who were cut off before their time? After all, they lie
buried somewhere at last, Cadicianus, Fabius, Julianus, Lepidus,
and any others like them, who after carrying many to their graves
were at last carried to their own. Small, in any point of view, is the
difference in length, and that too lived out to the dregs amid what
great cares and with what sort of companions and in what kind of
a body! Count it then of no consequence. For look at the yawning
gulf of Time behind thee, and before thee at another Infinity to
come. In this Eternity the life of a baby of three days and the life of
a Nestor of three centuries are as one.
51. Run ever the short way; and the short way is the way of
Nature, that leads to all that is most sound in speech and act. For
a resolve such as this is a release from troubles and strife, from
all mental reservation and affectation.
May the Lightforce
be with You.
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