Meditations by Emperor of Rome Marcus Aurelius


By Marcus Aurelius

























Paragraphs with First Lines


I. Of my grandfather Verus I have learned to be gentle and meek, and to

II. Of him that brought me up, not to be fondly addicted to either of

III. Of Diognetus, not to busy myself about vain things, and not easily

IV. To Rusticus I am beholding, that I first entered into the conceit

V. From Apollonius, true liberty, and unvariable steadfastness, and not

VI. Of Sextus, mildness and the pattern of a family governed with

VII. From Alexander the Grammarian, to be un-reprovable myself, and not

VIII. Of Fronto, to how much envy and fraud and hypocrisy the state of a

IX. Of Alexander the Platonic, not often nor without great necessity to

X. Of Catulus, not to contemn any friend’s expostulation, though unjust,

XI. From my brother Severus, to be kind and loving to all them of my

XII. From Claudius Maximus, in all things to endeavour to have power

XIII. In my father, I observed his meekness; his constancy without

XIV. From the gods I received that I had good grandfathers, and parents,

XV. In the country of the Quadi at Granua, these. Betimes in the morning

XVI. Whatsoever I am, is either flesh, or life, or that which we

XVII. Whatsoever proceeds from the gods immediately, that any man will


I. Remember how long thou hast already put off these things, and how

II. Let it be thy earnest and incessant care as a Roman and a man to

III. Do, soul, do; abuse and contemn thyself; yet a while and the time

IV. Why should any of these things that happen externally, so much

V. For not observing the state of another man’s soul, scarce was ever

VI. These things thou must always have in mind: What is the nature

VII. Theophrastus, where he compares sin with sin (as after a vulgar

VIII. Whatsoever thou dost affect, whatsoever thou dost project, so do,

IX. Consider how quickly all things are dissolved and resolved: the

X. It is the part of a man endowed with a good understanding faculty, to

XI. Consider with thyself how man, and by what part of his, is joined

XII. If thou shouldst live three thousand, or as many as ten thousands

XIII. Remember that all is but opinion and conceit, for those things

XIV. A man’s soul doth wrong and disrespect itself first and especially,

XV. The time of a man’s life is as a point; the substance of it ever


I. A man must not only consider how daily his life wasteth and

II. This also thou must observe, that whatsoever it is that naturally

III. Hippocrates having cured many sicknesses, fell sick himself and

IV. Spend not the remnant of thy days in thoughts and fancies concerning

V. Do nothing against thy will, nor contrary to the community, nor

VI. To be cheerful, and to stand in no need, either of other men’s help

VII. If thou shalt find anything in this mortal life better than

VIII. Never esteem of anything as profitable, which shall ever constrain

IX. In the mind that is once truly disciplined and purged, thou canst

X. Use thine opinative faculty with all honour and respect, for in

XI. To these ever-present helps and mementoes, let one more be added,

XII. What is this, that now my fancy is set upon? of what things doth

XIII. If thou shalt intend that which is present, following the rule of

XIV. As physicians and chirurgeons have always their instruments ready

XV. Be not deceived; for thou shalt never live to read thy moral

XVI. To steal, to sow, to buy, to be at rest, to see what is to be done

XVII. To be capable of fancies and imaginations, is common to man and


I. That inward mistress part of man if it be in its own true natural

II. Let nothing be done rashly, and at random, but all things according

III. They seek for themselves private retiring

IV. If to understand and to be reasonable be common unto all men, then

V. As generation is, so also death, a secret of nature’s wisdom: a

VI. Such and such things, from such and such causes, must of necessity

VII. Let opinion be taken away, and no man will think himself wronged.

VIII. Whatsoever doth happen in the world, doth happen justly, and so if

IX. Conceit no such things, as he that wrongeth thee conceiveth,

X. These two rules, thou must have always in a readiness. First, do

XI. Hast thou reason? I have. Why then makest thou not use of it? For if

XII. As a part hitherto thou hast had a particular subsistence: and now

XIII. Within ten days, if so happen, thou shalt be esteemed a god of

XIV. Not as though thou hadst thousands of years to live. Death hangs

XV. Now much time and leisure doth he gain, who is not curious to know

XVI. He who is greedy of credit and reputation after his death, doth

XVII. If so be that the souls remain after death (say they that will not

XVIII. Not to wander out of the way, but upon every motion and desire,

XIX. Whatsoever is expedient unto thee, O World, is expedient unto me;

XX. They will say commonly, Meddle not with many things, if thou wilt

XXI. Try also how a good man’s life; (of one, who is well pleased with

XXII. Either this world is a kosmoz or comely piece, because all

XXIII. A black or malign disposition, an effeminate disposition; an

XXIV. He is a true fugitive, that flies from reason, by which men are

XXV. There is, who without so much as a coat; and there is, who without

XXVI. What art and profession soever thou hast learned, endeavour to

XXVII. Consider in my mind, for example’s sake, the times of Vespasian:

XXVIII. Those words which once were common and ordinary, are now become

XXIX. Whatsoever is now present, and from day to day hath its existence;

XXX. Thou art now ready to die, and yet hast thou not attained to

XXXI. Behold and observe, what is the state of their rational part; and

XXXII. In another man’s mind and understanding thy evil Cannot subsist,

XXXIII. Ever consider and think upon the world as being but one living

XXXIV. What art thou, that better and divine part excepted, but as

XXXV. To suffer change can be no hurt; as no benefit it is, by change to

XXXVI. Whatsoever doth happen in the world, is, in the course of nature,

XXXVII. Let that of Heraclitus never be out of thy mind, that the death

XXXVIII. Even as if any of the gods should tell thee, Thou shalt

XXXIX. Let it be thy perpetual meditation, how many physicians who

XL. Thou must be like a promontory of the sea, against which though

XLI. Oh, wretched I, to whom this mischance is happened! nay, happy I,

XLII. It is but an ordinary coarse one, yet it is a good effectual

XLIII. Let thy course ever be the most compendious way. The most


I. In the morning when thou findest thyself unwilling to rise, consider

II. How easy a thing is it for a man to put off from him all turbulent

III. Think thyself fit and worthy to speak, or to do anything that is

IV. I continue my course by actions according to nature, until I

V. No man can admire thee for thy sharp acute language, such is thy

VI. Such there be, who when they have done a good turn to any, are ready

VII. The form of the Athenians’ prayer did run thus: ‘O rain, rain, good

VIII. As we say commonly, The physician hath prescribed unto this man,

IX. Be not discontented, be not disheartened, be not out of hope, if

X. Thou must comfort thyself in the expectation of thy natural

XI. What is the use that now at this present I make of my soul? Thus

XII. What those things are in themselves, which by the greatest part are

XIII. All that I consist of, is either form or matter. No corruption can

XIV. Reason, and rational power, are faculties which content themselves

XV. Such as thy thoughts and ordinary cogitations are, such will thy

XVI. To desire things impossible is the part of a mad man. But it is a

XVII. After one consideration, man is nearest unto us; as we are bound

XVIII. Honour that which is chiefest and most powerful in the world, and

XIX. That which doth not hurt the city itself; cannot hurt any citizen.

XX. Let not that chief commanding part of thy soul be ever subject to

XXI. To live with the Gods. He liveth with the Gods, who at all times

XXII. Be not angry neither with him whose breath, neither with him whose

XXIII. ‘Where there shall neither roarer be, nor harlot.’ Why so? As

XXIV. That rational essence by which the universe is governed, is for

XXV. How hast thou carried thyself hitherto towards the Gods? towards

XXVI. Why should imprudent unlearned souls trouble that which is

XXVII. Within a very little while, thou wilt be either ashes, or a

XXVIII. Thou mayest always speed, if thou wilt but make choice of the

XXIX. If this neither be my wicked act, nor an act anyways depending

XXX. Let death surprise rue when it will, and where it will, I may be a


I. The matter itself, of which the universe doth consist, is of itself

II. Be it all one unto thee, whether half frozen or well warm; whether

III. Look in, let not either the proper quality, or the true worth of

IV. All substances come soon to their change, and either they shall

V. The best kind of revenge is, not to become like unto them.

VI. Let this be thy only joy, and thy only comfort, from one sociable

VII. The rational commanding part, as it alone can stir up and turn

VIII. According to the nature of the universe all things particular are

IX. Whensoever by some present hard occurrences thou art constrained to

X. If it were that thou hadst at one time both a stepmother, and

XI. How marvellous useful it is for a man to represent unto himself

XII. See what Crates pronounceth concerning Xenocrates himself.

XIII. Those things which the common sort of people do admire, are most

XIV. Some things hasten to be, and others to be no more. And even

XV. Not vegetative spiration, it is not surely (which plants have) that

XVI. Under, above, and about, are the motions of the elements; but

XVII. Who can choose but wonder at them? They will not speak well of

XVIII. Do not ever conceive anything impossible to man, which by thee

XIX. Suppose that at the palestra somebody hath all to-torn thee with

XX. If anybody shall reprove me, and shall make it apparent unto me,

XXI. I for my part will do what belongs unto me; as for other things,

XXII. Alexander of Macedon, and he that dressed his mules, when once

XXIII Consider how many different things, whether they concern our

XXIV. if any should put this question unto thee, how this word Antoninus

XXV. Is it not a cruel thing to forbid men to affect those things, which

XXVI. Death is a cessation from the impression of the senses, the

XXVII. If in this kind of life thy body be able to hold out, it is a

XXVIII. Do all things as becometh the disciple of Antoninus Pius.

XXIX. Stir up thy mind, and recall thy wits again from thy natural

XXX. I consist of body and soul. Unto my body all things are

XXXI. As long as the foot doth that which belongeth unto it to do, and

XXXII. Dost thou not see, how even those that profess mechanic arts,

XXXIII. Asia, Europe; what are they, but as corners of the whole world;

XXXIV He that seeth the things that are now, hath Seen all that either

XXXV. Fit and accommodate thyself to that estate and to those

XXXVI. What things soever are not within the proper power and

XXXVII. We all work to one effect, some willingly, and with a rational

XXXVIII. Doth either the sun take upon him to do that which belongs to

XXXIX. If so be that the Gods have deliberated in particular of those

XL. Whatsoever in any kind doth happen to any one, is expedient to the

XLI. As the ordinary shows of the theatre and of other such places,

XLII. Let the several deaths of men of all sorts, and of all sorts of

XLIII. When thou wilt comfort and cheer thyself, call to mind the

XLIV. Dost thou grieve that thou dost weigh but so many pounds, and not

XLV. Let us do our best endeavours to persuade them; but however, if

XLVI. The ambitious supposeth another man’s act, praise and applause, to

XLVII. It is in thy power absolutely to exclude all manner of conceit

XLVIII. Use thyself when any man speaks unto thee, so to hearken unto

XLIX. That which is not good for the bee-hive, cannot be good for the

L. Will either passengers, or patients, find fault and complain, either

LI. How many of them who came into the world at the same time when I

LII. To them that are sick of the jaundice, honey seems bitter; and to

LIII. No man can hinder thee to live as thy nature doth require. Nothing

LIV. What manner of men they be whom they seek to please, and what to


I. What is wickedness? It is that which many time and often thou hast

II. What fear is there that thy dogmata, or philosophical resolutions

III. That which most men would think themselves most happy for, and

IV. Word after word, every one by itself, must the things that are

V. Is my reason, and understanding sufficient for this, or no? If it be

VI. Let not things future trouble thee. For if necessity so require that

VII. Whatsoever is material, doth soon vanish away into the common

VIII. To a reasonable creature, the same action is both according

IX. Straight of itself, not made straight.

X. As several members in one body united, so are reasonable creatures

XI. Of things that are external, happen what will to that which can

XII. Whatsoever any man either doth or saith, thou must be good; not for

XIII. This may ever be my comfort and security: my understanding, that

XIV. What is rv&nfLovia, or happiness: but a7~o~ &d~wv, or, a good

XV. Is any man so foolish as to fear change, to which all things that

XVI. Through the substance of the universe, as through a torrent pass

XVII. The nature of the universe, of the common substance of all things

XVIII. An angry countenance is much against nature, and it is oftentimes

XIX. Whensoever any man doth trespass against other, presently consider

XX. Fancy not to thyself things future, as though they were present

XXI. Wipe off all opinion stay the force and violence of unreasonable

XXII. All things (saith he) are by certain order and appointment. And

XXIII. Out of Plato. ‘He then whose mind is endowed with true

XXIV. Out of Antisthenes. ‘It is a princely thing to do well, and to be

XXV. Out of several poets and comics. ‘It will but little avail thee,

XXVI. Out of Plato. ‘My answer, full of justice and equity, should be

XXVII. To look back upon things of former ages, as upon the manifold

XXVIII. He hath a stronger body, and is a better wrestler than I. What

XXIX. Where the matter may be effected agreeably to that reason, which

XXX. Look not about upon other men’s minds and understandings; but look

XXXI. As one who had lived, and were now to die by right, whatsoever is

XXXII. Thou must use thyself also to keep thy body fixed and steady;

XXXIII. The art of true living in this world is more like a wrestler’s,

XXXIV. Thou must continually ponder and consider with thyself, what

XXXV. What pain soever thou art in, let this presently come to thy mind,

XXXVI. Take heed lest at any time thou stand so affected, though towards

XXXVII. How know we whether Socrates were so eminent indeed, and of so

XXXVIII. For it is a thing very possible, that a man should be a very

XXXIX. Free from all compulsion in all cheerfulness and alacrity thou

XL. Then hath a man attained to the estate of perfection in his life and

XLI. Can the Gods, who are immortal, for the continuance of so many ages

XLII. What object soever, our reasonable and sociable faculty doth meet

XLIII. When thou hast done well, and another is benefited by thy action,

XLIV. The nature of the universe did once certainly before it was


I. This also, among other things, may serve to keep thee from vainglory;

II. Upon every action that thou art about, put this question to thyself;

III. Alexander, Caius, Pompeius; what are these to Diogenes, Heraclitus,

IV. What they have done, they will still do, although thou shouldst hang

V. That which the nature of the universe doth busy herself about, is;

VI. Every particular nature hath content, when in its own proper course

VII. Thou hast no time nor opportunity to read. What then? Hast thou

VIII. Forbear henceforth to complain of the trouble of a courtly life,

IX. Repentance is an inward and self-reprehension for the neglect or

X. This, what is it in itself, and by itself, according to its proper

XI. When thou art hard to be stirred up and awaked out of thy sleep,

XII. As every fancy and imagination presents itself unto thee, consider

XIII. At thy first encounter with any one, say presently to thyself:

XIV. Remember, that to change thy mind upon occasion, and to follow him

XV. If it were thine act and in thine own power, wouldest thou do

XVI. Whatsoever dieth and falleth, however and wheresoever it die

XVII. Whatsoever is, was made for something: as a horse, a vine. Why

XVIII. Nature hath its end as well in the end and final consummation of

XIX. As one that tosseth up a ball. And what is a ball the better, if

XX. That which must be the subject of thy consideration, is either the

XXI. Most justly have these things happened unto thee: why dost not

XXII. Shall I do it? I will; so the end of my action be to do good unto

XXIII. By one action judge of the rest: this bathing which usually takes

XXIV. Lucilla buried Verus; then was Lucilla herself buried by others.

XXV. The true joy of a man, is to do that which properly belongs unto a

XXVI. If pain be an evil, either it is in regard of the body; (and that

XXVII. Wipe off all idle fancies, and say unto thyself incessantly; Now

XXVIII. Whether thou speak in the Senate or whether thou speak to any

XXIX. Augustus his court; his wife, his daughter, his nephews, his

XXX. Contract thy whole life to the measure and proportion of one single

XXXI. Receive temporal blessings without ostentation, when they are sent

XXXII. If ever thou sawest either a hand, or a foot, or a head lying by

XXXIII. As almost all her other faculties and properties the nature of

XXXIV. Let not the general representation unto thyself of the

XXXV. What? are either Panthea or Pergamus abiding to this day by their

XXXVI. If thou beest quick-sighted, be so in matter of judgment, and

XXXVII. In the whole constitution of man, I see not any virtue contrary

XXXVIII. If thou canst but withdraw conceit and opinion concerning that

XXXIX. That which is a hindrance of the senses, is an evil to the

XL. If once round and solid, there is no fear that ever it will change.

XLI. Why should I grieve myself; who never did willingly grieve any

XLII. This time that is now present, bestow thou upon thyself. They that

XLIII. Take me and throw me where thou wilt: I am indifferent. For there

XLIV. Is this then a thing of that worth, that for it my soul should

XLV. Nothing can happen unto thee, which is not incidental unto thee, as

XLVI. Remember that thy mind is of that nature as that it becometh

XLVII. Keep thyself to the first bare and naked apprehensions of things,

XLVIII. Is the cucumber bitter? set it away. Brambles are in the way?

XLIX. Not to be slack and negligent; or loose, and wanton in thy

L. ‘They kill me, they cut my flesh; they persecute my person with

LI. He that knoweth not what the world is, knoweth not where he himself

LII. Not only now henceforth to have a common breath, or to hold

LIII. Wickedness in general doth not hurt the world. Particular

LIV. The sun seemeth to be shed abroad. And indeed it is diffused but

LV. He that feareth death, either feareth that he shall have no sense at

LVI. All men are made one for another: either then teach them better, or

LVII. The motion of the mind is not as the motion of a dart. For

LVIII. To pierce and penetrate into the estate of every one’s


I. He that is unjust, is also impious. For the nature of the universe,

II. It were indeed more happy and comfortable, for a man to depart out

III. Thou must not in matter of death carry thyself scornfully, but as

IV. He that sinneth, sinneth unto himself. He that is unjust, hurts

V. If my present apprehension of the object be right, and my present

VI. To wipe away fancy, to use deliberation, to quench concupiscence, to

VII. Of all unreasonable creatures, there is but one unreasonable soul;

VIII. Man, God, the world, every one in their kind, bear some fruits.

IX. Either teach them better if it be in thy power; or if it be not,

X. Labour not as one to whom it is appointed to be wretched, nor as one

XI. This day I did come out of all my trouble. Nay I have cast out all

XII. All those things, for matter of experience are usual and ordinary;

XIII. The things themselves that affect us, they stand without doors,

XIV. As virtue and wickedness consist not in passion, but in action; so

XV. To the stone that is cast up, when it comes down it is no hurt unto

XVI. Sift their minds and understandings, and behold what men they be,

XVII. All things that are in the world, are always in the estate

XVIII. it is not thine, but another man’s sin. Why should it trouble

XIX. Of an operation and of a purpose there is an ending, or of an

XX. As occasion shall require, either to thine own understanding, or to

XXI. As thou thyself, whoever thou art, were made for the perfection and

XXII. Children’s anger, mere babels; wretched souls bearing up dead

XXIII. Go to the quality of the cause from which the effect doth

XXIV. Infinite are the troubles and miseries, that thou hast already

XXV. When any shall either impeach thee with false accusations, or

XXVI. Up and down, from one age to another, go the ordinary things of

XXVII. Within a while the earth shall cover us all, and then she herself

XXVIII. And these your professed politicians, the only true practical

XXIX. From some high place as it were to look down, and to behold

XXX. Many of those things that trouble and straiten thee, it is in thy

XXXI. To comprehend the whole world together in thy mind, and the whole

XXXII. What are their minds and understandings; and what the things that

XXXIII. Loss and corruption, is in very deed nothing else but change and

XXXIV. How base and putrid, every common matter is! Water, dust, and

XXXV. Will this querulousness, this murmuring, this complaining and

XXXVI. It is all one to see these things for a hundred of years together

XXXVII. If he have sinned, his is the harm, not mine. But perchance he

XXXVIII. Either all things by the providence of reason happen unto every

XXXIX. Sayest thou unto that rational part, Thou art dead; corruption

XL. Either the Gods can do nothing for us at all, or they can still and

XLI. ‘In my sickness’ (saith Epicurus of himself:) ‘my discourses were

XLII. It is common to all trades and professions to mind and intend that

XLIII. When at any time thou art offended with any one’s impudency, put


I. O my soul, the time I trust will be, when thou shalt be good, simple,

II. As one who is altogether governed by nature, let it be thy care to

III. Whatsoever doth happen unto thee, thou art naturally by thy natural

IV. Him that offends, to teach with love and meek ness, and to show him

V. Whatsoever it be that happens unto thee, it is that which from all

VI. Either with Epicurus, we must fondly imagine the atoms to be the

VII. All parts of the world, (all things I mean that are contained

VIII. Now that thou hast taken these names upon thee of good, modest,

IX. Toys and fooleries at home, wars abroad: sometimes terror, sometimes

X. As the spider, when it hath caught the fly that it hunted after, is

XI. To find out, and set to thyself some certain way and method of

XII. He hath got loose from the bonds of his body, and perceiving that

XIII. What use is there of suspicion at all? or, why should thoughts

XIV. What is that that is slow, and yet quick? merry, and yet grave? He

XV. In the morning as soon as thou art awaked, when thy judgment, before

XVI. Give what thou wilt, and take away what thou wilt, saith he that is

XVII. So live as indifferent to the world and all worldly objects, as

XVIII. Make it not any longer a matter of dispute or discourse, what are

XIX. Ever to represent unto thyself; and to set before thee, both the

XX. Consider them through all actions and occupations, of their lives:

XXI. That is best for every one, that the common nature of all doth send

XXII. The earth, saith the poet, doth often long after the rain. So is

XXIII. Either thou dost Continue in this kind of life and that is it,

XXIV Let it always appear and be manifest unto thee that solitariness,

XXV. He that runs away from his master is a fugitive. But the law is

XXVI. From man is the seed, that once cast into the womb man hath no

XXVII. Ever to mind and consider with thyself; how all things that now

XXVIII. As a pig that cries and flings when his throat is cut, fancy to

XXIX. Whatsoever it is that thou goest about, consider of it by thyself,

XXX. When thou art offended with any man’s transgression, presently

XXXI. When thou seest Satyro, think of Socraticus and Eutyches, or

XXXII. What a subject, and what a course of life is it, that thou doest

XXXIII. Let it not be in any man’s power, to say truly of thee, that

XXXIV. As he that is bitten by a mad dog, is afraid of everything almost

XXXV. A good eye must be good to see whatsoever is to be seen, and not

XXXVI. There is not any man that is so happy in his death, but that some

XXXVII. Use thyself; as often, as thou seest any man do anything,

XXXVIII. Remember, that that which sets a man at work, and hath power


I. The natural properties, and privileges of a reasonable soul are: That

II. A pleasant song or dance; the Pancratiast’s exercise, sports that

III. That soul which is ever ready, even now presently (if need be) from

IV. Have I done anything charitably? then am I benefited by it. See

V. Tragedies were at first brought in and instituted, to put men in mind

VI. How clearly doth it appear unto thee, that no other course of thy

VII. A branch cut off from the continuity of that which was next unto

VIII. To grow together like fellow branches in matter of good

IX. It is not possible that any nature should be inferior unto art,

X. The things themselves (which either to get or to avoid thou art put

XI. Then is the soul as Empedocles doth liken it, like unto a sphere or

XII. Will any contemn me? let him look to that, upon what grounds he

XIII. They contemn one another, and yet they seek to please one another:

XIV. How rotten and insincere is he, that saith, I am resolved to carry

XV. To live happily is an inward power of the soul, when she is affected

XVI. Of everything thou must consider from whence it came, of what

XVII. Four several dispositions or inclinations there be of the mind and

XVIII. What portion soever, either of air or fire there be in thee,

XIX. He that hath not one and the self-same general end always as long

XX. Remember the fable of the country mouse and the city mouse, and the

XXI. Socrates was wont to call the common conceits and opinions of men,

XXII. The Lacedaemonians at their public spectacles were wont to appoint

XXIII. What Socrates answered unto Perdiccas, why he did not come unto

XXIV. In the ancient mystical letters of the Ephesians, there was an

XXV. The Pythagoreans were wont betimes in the morning the first thing

XXVI. How Socrates looked, when he was fain to gird himself with a

XXVII. In matter of writing or reading thou must needs be taught before

XXVIII. ‘My heart smiled within me.’ ‘They will accuse even virtue

XXIX. As they that long after figs in winter when they cannot be had; so

XXX. ‘As often as a father kisseth his child, he should say secretly

XXXI. ‘Of the free will there is no thief or robber:’ out of Epictetus;


I. Whatsoever thou doest hereafter aspire unto, thou mayest even now

II. God beholds our minds and understandings, bare and naked from these

III. I have often wondered how it should come to pass, that every man

IV. how come it to pass that the Gods having ordered all other things

V. Use thyself even unto those things that thou doest at first despair

VI. Let these be the objects of thy ordinary meditation: to consider,

VII. All worldly things thou must behold and consider, dividing them

VIII. How happy is man in this his power that hath been granted unto

IX. Whatsoever doth happen in the ordinary course and consequence of

X. How ridiculous and strange is he, that wonders at anything that

XI. Either fate, (and that either an absolute necessity, and unavoidable

XII. At the conceit and apprehension that such and such a one hath

XIII. If it be not fitting, do it not. If it be not true, speak it not.

XIV. Of everything that presents itself unto thee, to consider what the

XV. It is high time for thee, to understand that there is somewhat in

XVI. Remember that all is but opinion, and all opinion depends of the

XVII. No operation whatsoever it he, ceasing for a while, can be truly

XVIII. These three things thou must have always in a readiness: first

XIX. Cast away from thee opinion, and thou art safe. And what is it that

XX. Let thy thoughts ever run upon them, who once for some one thing or

XXI. To them that ask thee, Where hast thou seen the Gods, or how

XXII. Herein doth consist happiness of life, for a man to know

XXIII. There is but one light of the sun, though it be intercepted by

XXIV. What doest thou desire? To live long. What? To enjoy the

XXV. What a small portion of vast and infinite eternity it is, that is

XXVI. What is the present estate of my understanding? For herein lieth

XXVII. To stir up a man to the contempt of death this among other



MARCUS AURELIUS ANTONINUS was born on April 26, A.D. 121. His real name was M. Annius Verus, and he was sprung of a noble family which claimed descent from Numa, second King of Rome. Thus the most religious of emperors came of the blood of the most pious of early kings. His father, Annius Verus, had held high office in Rome, and his grandfather, of the same name, had been thrice Consul. Both his parents died young, but Marcus held them in loving remembrance. On his father’s death Marcus was adopted by his grandfather, the consular Annius Verus, and there was deep love between these two. On the very first page of his book Marcus gratefully declares how of his grandfather he had learned to be gentle and meek, and to refrain from all anger and passion. The Emperor Hadrian divined the fine character of the lad, whom he used to call not Verus but Verissimus, more Truthful than his own name. He advanced Marcus to equestrian rank when six years of age, and at the age of eight made him a member of the ancient Salian priesthood. The boy’s aunt, Annia Galeria Faustina, was married to Antoninus Pius, afterwards emperor. Hence it came about that Antoninus, having no son, adopted Marcus, changing his name to that which he is known by, and betrothed him to his daughter Faustina. His education was conducted with all care. The ablest teachers were engaged for him, and he was trained in the strict doctrine of the Stoic philosophy, which was his great delight. He was taught to dress plainly and to live simply, to avoid all softness and luxury. His body was trained to hardihood by wrestling, hunting, and outdoor games; and though his constitution was weak, he showed great personal courage to encounter the fiercest boars. At the same time he was kept from the extravagancies of his day. The great excitement in Rome was the strife of the Factions, as they were called, in the circus. The racing drivers used to adopt one of four colours—red, blue, white, or green—and their partisans showed an eagerness in supporting them which nothing could surpass. Riot and corruption went in the train of the racing chariots; and from all these things Marcus held severely aloof.

In 140 Marcus was raised to the consulship, and in 145 his betrothal was consummated by marriage. Two years later Faustina brought him a daughter; and soon after the tribunate and other imperial honours were conferred upon him.

Antoninus Pius died in 161, and Marcus assumed the imperial state. He at once associated with himself L. Ceionius Commodus, whom Antoninus had adopted as a younger son at the same time with Marcus, giving him the name of Lucius Aurelius Verus. Henceforth the two are colleagues in the empire, the junior being trained as it were to succeed. No sooner was Marcus settled upon the throne than wars broke out on all sides. In the east, Vologeses III. of Parthia began a long-meditated revolt by destroying a whole Roman Legion and invading Syria (162). Verus was sent off in hot haste to quell this rising; and he fulfilled his trust by plunging into drunkenness and debauchery, while the war was left to his officers. Soon after Marcus had to face a more serious danger at home in the coalition of several powerful tribes on the northern frontier. Chief among those were the Marcomanni or Marchmen, the Quadi (mentioned in this book), the Sarmatians, the Catti, the Jazyges. In Rome itself there was pestilence and starvation, the one brought from the east by Verus’s legions, the other caused by floods which had destroyed vast quantities of grain. After all had been done possible to allay famine and to supply pressing needs—Marcus being forced even to sell the imperial jewels to find money—both emperors set forth to a struggle which was to continue more or less during the rest of Marcus’s reign. During these wars, in 169, Verus died. We have no means of following the campaigns in detail; but thus much is certain, that in the end the Romans succeeded in crushing the barbarian tribes, and effecting a settlement which made the empire more secure. Marcus was himself commander-in-chief, and victory was due no less to his own ability than to his wisdom in choice of lieutenants, shown conspicuously in the case of Pertinax. There were several important battles fought in these campaigns; and one of them has become celebrated for the legend of the Thundering Legion. In a battle against the Quadi in 174, the day seemed to be going in favour of the foe, when on a sudden arose a great storm of thunder and rain the lightning struck the barbarians with terror, and they turned to rout. In later days this storm was said to have been sent in answer to the prayers of a legion which contained many Christians, and the name Thundering Legion should be given to it on this account. The title of Thundering Legion is known at an earlier date, so this part of the story at least cannot be true; but the aid of the storm is acknowledged by one of the scenes carved on Antonine’s Column at Rome, which commemorates these wars.

The settlement made after these troubles might have been more satisfactory but for an unexpected rising in the east. Avidius Cassius, an able captain who had won renown in the Parthian wars, was at this time chief governor of the eastern provinces. By whatever means induced, he had conceived the project of proclaiming himself emperor as soon as Marcus, who was then in feeble health, should die; and a report having been conveyed to him that Marcus was dead, Cassius did as he had planned. Marcus, on hearing the news, immediately patched up a peace and returned home to meet this new peril. The emperors great grief was that he must needs engage in the horrors of civil strife. He praised the qualities of Cassius, and expressed a heartfelt wish that Cassius might not be driven to do himself a hurt before he should have the opportunity to grant a free pardon. But before he could come to the east news had come to Cassius that the emperor still lived; his followers fell away from him, and he was assassinated. Marcus now went to the east, and while there the murderers brought the head of Cassius to him; but the emperor indignantly refused their gift, nor would he admit the men to his presence.

On this journey his wife, Faustina, died. At his return the emperor celebrated a triumph (176). Immediately afterwards he repaired to Germany, and took up once more the burden of war. His operations were followed by complete success; but the troubles of late years had been too much for his constitution, at no time robust, and on March 17, 180, he died in Pannonia.

The good emperor was not spared domestic troubles. Faustina had borne him several children, of whom he was passionately fond. Their innocent faces may still be seen in many a sculpture gallery, recalling with odd effect the dreamy countenance of their father. But they died one by one, and when Marcus came to his own end only one of his sons still lived—the weak and worthless Commodus. On his father’s death Commodus, who succeeded him, undid the work of many campaigns by a hasty and unwise peace; and his reign of twelve years proved him to be a ferocious and bloodthirsty tyrant. Scandal has made free with the name of Faustina herself, who is accused not only of unfaithfulness, but of intriguing with Cassius and egging him on to his fatal rebellion, it must be admitted that these charges rest on no sure evidence; and the emperor, at all events, loved her dearly, nor ever felt the slightest qualm of suspicion.

As a soldier we have seen that Marcus was both capable and successful; as an administrator he was prudent and conscientious. Although steeped in the teachings of philosophy, he did not attempt to remodel the world on any preconceived plan. He trod the path beaten by his predecessors, seeking only to do his duty as well as he could, and to keep out corruption. He did some unwise things, it is true. To create a compeer in empire, as he did with Verus, was a dangerous innovation which could only succeed if one of the two effaced himself; and under Diocletian this very precedent caused the Roman Empire to split into halves. He erred in his civil administration by too much centralising. But the strong point of his reign was the administration of justice. Marcus sought by-laws to protect the weak, to make the lot of the slaves less hard, to stand in place of father to the fatherless. Charitable foundations were endowed for rearing and educating poor children. The provinces were protected against oppression, and public help was given to cities or districts which might be visited by calamity. The great blot on his name, and one hard indeed to explain, is his treatment of the Christians. In his reign Justin at Rome became a martyr to his faith, and Polycarp at Smyrna, and we know of many outbreaks of fanaticism in the provinces which caused the death of the faithful. It is no excuse to plead that he knew nothing about the atrocities done in his name: it was his duty to know, and if he did not he would have been the first to confess that he had failed in his duty. But from his own tone in speaking of the Christians it is clear he knew them only from calumny; and we hear of no measures taken even to secure that they should have a fair hearing. In this respect Trajan was better than he.

To a thoughtful mind such a religion as that of Rome would give small satisfaction. Its legends were often childish or impossible; its teaching had little to do with morality. The Roman religion was in fact of the nature of a bargain: men paid certain sacrifices and rites, and the gods granted their favour, irrespective of right or wrong. In this case all devout souls were thrown back upon philosophy, as they had been, though to a less extent, in Greece. There were under the early empire two rival schools which practically divided the field between them, Stoicism and Epicureanism. The ideal set before each was nominally much the same. The Stoics aspired to the repression of all emotion, and the Epicureans to freedom from all disturbance; yet in the upshot the one has become a synonym of stubborn endurance, the other for unbridled licence. With Epicureanism we have nothing to do now; but it will be worth while to sketch the history and tenets of the Stoic sect. Zeno, the founder of Stoicism, was born in Cyprus at some date unknown, but his life may be said roughly to be between the years 350 and 250 B.C. Cyprus has been from time immemorial a meeting-place of the East and West, and although we cannot grant any importance to a possible strain of Phoenician blood in him (for the Phoenicians were no philosophers), yet it is quite likely that through Asia Minor he may have come in touch with the Far East. He studied under the cynic Crates, but he did not neglect other philosophical systems. After many years’ study he opened his own school in a colonnade in Athens called the Painted Porch, or Stoa, which gave the Stoics their name. Next to Zeno, the School of the Porch owes most to Chrysippus (280—207 b.c.), who organised Stoicism into a system. Of him it was said, ‘But for Chrysippus, there had been no Porch.’

The Stoics regarded speculation as a means to an end and that end was, as Zeno put it, to live consistently omologonuenws zhn or as it was later explained, to live in conformity with nature. This conforming of the life to nature oralogoumenwz th fusei zhn. was the Stoic idea of Virtue.

This dictum might easily be taken to mean that virtue consists in yielding to each natural impulse; but that was very far from the Stoic meaning. In order to live in accord with nature, it is necessary to know what nature is; and to this end a threefold division of philosophy is made—into Physics, dealing with the universe and its laws, the problems of divine government and teleology; Logic, which trains the mind to discern true from false; and Ethics, which applies the knowledge thus gained and tested to practical life. The Stoic system of physics was materialism with an infusion of pantheism. In contradiction to Plato’s view that the Ideas, or Prototypes, of phenomena alone really exist, the Stoics held that material objects alone existed; but immanent in the material universe was a spiritual force which acted through them, manifesting itself under many forms, as fire, aether, spirit, soul, reason, the ruling principle.

The universe, then, is God, of whom the popular gods are manifestations; while legends and myths are allegorical. The soul of man is thus an emanation from the godhead, into whom it will eventually be re-absorbed. The divine ruling principle makes all things work together for good, but for the good of the whole. The highest good of man is consciously to work with God for the common good, and this is the sense in which the Stoic tried to live in accord with nature. In the individual it is virtue alone which enables him to do this; as Providence rules the universe, so virtue in the soul must rule man.

In Logic, the Stoic system is noteworthy for their theory as to the test of truth, the Criterion. They compared the new-born soul to a sheet of paper ready for writing. Upon this the senses write their impressions, fantasias and by experience of a number of these the soul unconsciously conceives general notions koinai eunoiai or anticipations. prolhyeis When the impression was such as to be irresistible it was called (katalnptikh fantasia) one that holds fast, or as they explained it, one proceeding from truth. Ideas and inferences artificially produced by deduction or the like were tested by this ‘holding perception.’ Of the Ethical application I have already spoken. The highest good was the virtuous life. Virtue alone is happiness, and vice is unhappiness. Carrying this theory to its extreme, the Stoic said that there could be no gradations between virtue and vice, though of course each has its special manifestations. Moreover, nothing is good but virtue, and nothing but vice is bad. Those outside things which are commonly called good or bad, such as health and sickness, wealth and poverty, pleasure and pain, are to him indifferent adiofora. All these things are merely the sphere in which virtue may act. The ideal Wise Man is sufficient unto himself in all things, autarkhs and knowing these truths, he will be happy even when stretched upon the rack. It is probable that no Stoic claimed for himself that he was this Wise Man, but that each strove after it as an ideal much as the Christian strives after a likeness to Christ. The exaggeration in this statement was, however, so obvious, that the later Stoics were driven to make a further subdivision of things indifferent into what is preferable (prohgmena) and what is undesirable. They also held that for him who had not attained to the perfect wisdom, certain actions were proper. (kaqhkonta) These were neither virtuous nor vicious, but, like the indifferent things, held a middle place. Two points in the Stoic system deserve special mention. One is a careful distinction between things which are in our power and things which are not. Desire and dislike, opinion and affection, are within the power of the will; whereas health, wealth, honour, and other such are generally not so. The Stoic was called upon to control his desires and affections, and to guide his opinion; to bring his whole being under the sway of the will or leading principle, just as the universe is guided and governed by divine Providence. This is a special application of the favourite Greek virtue of moderation, (swfrosuum) and has also its parallel in Christian ethics. The second point is a strong insistence on the unity of the universe, and on man’s duty as part of a great whole. Public spirit was the most splendid political virtue of the ancient world, and it is here made cosmopolitan. It is again instructive to note that Christian sages insisted on the same thing. Christians are taught that they are members of a worldwide brotherhood, where is neither Greek nor Hebrew, bond nor free and that they live their lives as fellow-workers with God.

Such is the system which underlies the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. Some knowledge of it is necessary to the right understanding of the book, but for us the chief interest lies elsewhere. We do not come to Marcus Aurelius for a treatise on Stoicism. He is no head of a school to lay down a body of doctrine for students; he does not even contemplate that others should read what he writes. His philosophy is not an eager intellectual inquiry, but more what we should call religious feeling. The uncompromising stiffness of Zeno or Chrysippus is softened and transformed by passing through a nature reverent and tolerant, gentle and free from guile; the grim resignation which made life possible to the Stoic sage becomes in him almost a mood of aspiration. His book records the innermost thoughts of his heart, set down to ease it, with such moral maxims and reflections as may help him to bear the burden of duty and the countless annoyances of a busy life.

It is instructive to compare the Meditations with another famous book, the Imitation of Christ. There is the same ideal of self-control in both. It should be a man’s task, says the Imitation, ‘to overcome himself, and every day to be stronger than himself.’ ‘In withstanding of the passions standeth very peace of heart.’ ‘Let us set the axe to the root, that we being purged of our passions may have a peaceable mind.’ To this end there must be continual self-examination. ‘If thou may not continually gather thyself together, namely sometimes do it, at least once a day, the morning or the evening. In the morning purpose, in the evening discuss the manner, what thou hast been this day, in word, work, and thought.’ But while the Roman’s temper is a modest self-reliance, the Christian aims at a more passive mood, humbleness and meekness, and reliance on the presence and personal friendship of God. The Roman scrutinises his faults with severity, but without the self-contempt which makes the Christian ‘vile in his own sight.’ The Christian, like the Roman, bids ‘study to withdraw thine heart from the love of things visible’; but it is not the busy life of duty he has in mind so much as the contempt of all worldly things, and the ‘cutting away of all lower delectations.’ Both rate men’s praise or blame at their real worthlessness; ‘Let not thy peace,’ says the Christian, ‘be in the mouths of men.’ But it is to God’s censure the Christian appeals, the Roman to his own soul. The petty annoyances of injustice or unkindness are looked on by each with the same magnanimity. ‘Why doth a little thing said or done against thee make thee sorry? It is no new thing; it is not the first, nor shall it be the last, if thou live long. At best suffer patiently, if thou canst not suffer joyously.’ The Christian should sorrow more for other men’s malice than for our own wrongs; but the Roman is inclined to wash his hands of the offender. ‘Study to be patient in suffering and bearing other men’s defaults and all manner infirmities,’ says the Christian; but the Roman would never have thought to add, ‘If all men were perfect, what had we then to suffer of other men for God?’ The virtue of suffering in itself is an idea which does not meet us in the Meditations. Both alike realise that man is one of a great community. ‘No man is sufficient to himself,’ says the Christian; ‘we must bear together, help together, comfort together.’ But while he sees a chief importance in zeal, in exalted emotion that is, and avoidance of lukewarmness, the Roman thought mainly of the duty to be done as well as might be, and less of the feeling which should go with the doing of it. To the saint as to the emperor, the world is a poor thing at best. ‘Verily it is a misery to live upon the earth,’ says the Christian; few and evil are the days of man’s life, which passeth away suddenly as a shadow.

But there is one great difference between the two books we are considering. The Imitation is addressed to others, the Meditations by the writer to himself. We learn nothing from the Imitation of the author’s own life, except in so far as he may be assumed to have practised his own preachings; the Meditations reflect mood by mood the mind of him who wrote them. In their intimacy and frankness lies their great charm. These notes are not sermons; they are not even confessions. There is always an air of self-consciousness in confessions; in such revelations there is always a danger of unctuousness or of vulgarity for the best of men. St. Augus-tine is not always clear of offence, and John Bunyan himself exaggerates venial peccadilloes into heinous sins. But Marcus Aurelius is neither vulgar nor unctuous; he extenuates nothing, but nothing sets down in malice. He never poses before an audience; he may not be profound, he is always sincere. And it is a lofty and serene soul which is here disclosed before us. Vulgar vices seem to have no temptation for him; this is not one tied and bound with chains which he strives to break. The faults he detects in himself are often such as most men would have no eyes to see. To serve the divine spirit which is implanted within him, a man must ‘keep himself pure from all violent passion and evil affection, from all rashness and vanity, and from all manner of discontent, either in regard of the gods or men’: or, as he says elsewhere, ‘unspotted by pleasure, undaunted by pain.’ Unwavering courtesy and consideration are his aims. ‘Whatsoever any man either doth or saith, thou must be good;’ ‘doth any man offend? It is against himself that he doth offend: why should it trouble thee?’ The offender needs pity, not wrath; those who must needs be corrected, should be treated with tact and gentleness; and one must be always ready to learn better. ‘The best kind of revenge is, not to become like unto them.’ There are so many hints of offence forgiven, that we may believe the notes followed sharp on the facts. Perhaps he has fallen short of his aim, and thus seeks to call his principles to mind, and to strengthen himself for the future. That these sayings are not mere talk is plain from the story of Avidius Cassius, who would have usurped his imperial throne. Thus the emperor faithfully carries out his own principle, that evil must be overcome with good. For each fault in others, Nature (says he) has given us a counteracting virtue; ‘as, for example, against the unthankful, it hath given goodness and meekness, as an antidote.’

One so gentle towards a foe was sure to be a good friend; and indeed his pages are full of generous gratitude to those who had served him. In his First Book he sets down to account all the debts due to his kinsfolk and teachers. To his grandfather he owed his own gentle spirit, to his father shamefastness and courage; he learnt of his mother to be religious and bountiful and single-minded. Rusticus did not work in vain, if he showed his pupil that his life needed amending. Apollonius taught him simplicity, reasonableness, gratitude, a love of true liberty. So the list runs on; every one he had dealings with seems to have given him something good, a sure proof of the goodness of his nature, which thought no evil.

If his was that honest and true heart which is the Christian ideal, this is the more wonderful in that he lacked the faith which makes Christians strong. He could say, it is true, ‘either there is a God, and then all is well; or if all things go by chance and fortune, yet mayest thou use thine own providence in those things that concern thee properly; and then art thou well.’ Or again, ‘We must needs grant that there is a nature that doth govern the universe.’ But his own part in the scheme of things is so small, that he does not hope for any personal happiness beyond what a serene soul may win in this mortal life. ‘O my soul, the time I trust will be, when thou shalt be good, simple, more open and visible, than that body by which it is enclosed;’ but this is said of the calm contentment with human lot which he hopes to attain, not of a time when the trammels of the body shall be cast off. For the rest, the world and its fame and wealth, ‘all is vanity.’ The gods may perhaps have a particular care for him, but their especial care is for the universe at large: thus much should suffice. His gods are better than the Stoic gods, who sit aloof from all human things, untroubled and uncaring, but his personal hope is hardly stronger. On this point he says little, though there are many allusions to death as the natural end; doubtless he expected his soul one day to be absorbed into the universal soul, since nothing comes out of nothing, and nothing can be annihilated. His mood is one of strenuous weariness; he does his duty as a good soldier, waiting for the sound of the trumpet which shall sound the retreat; he has not that cheerful confidence which led Socrates through a life no less noble, to a death which was to bring him into the company of gods he had worshipped and men whom he had revered.

But although Marcus Aurelius may have held intellectually that his soul was destined to be absorbed, and to lose consciousness of itself, there were times when he felt, as all who hold it must sometimes feel, how unsatisfying is such a creed. Then he gropes blindly after something less empty and vain. ‘Thou hast taken ship,’ he says, ‘thou hast sailed, thou art come to land, go out, if to another life, there also shalt thou find gods, who are everywhere.’ There is more in this than the assumption of a rival theory for argument’s sake. If worldly things ‘be but as a dream, the thought is not far off that there may be an awakening to what is real. When he speaks of death as a necessary change, and points out that nothing useful and profitable can be brought about without change, did he perhaps think of the change in a corn of wheat, which is not quickened except it die? Nature’s marvellous power of recreating out of Corruption is surely not confined to bodily things. Many of his thoughts sound like far-off echoes of St. Paul; and it is strange indeed that this most Christian of emperors has nothing good to say of the Christians. To him they are only sectaries ‘violently and passionately set upon opposition.

Profound as philosophy these Meditations certainly are not; but Marcus Aurelius was too sincere not to see the essence of such things as came within his experience. Ancient religions were for the most part concerned with outward things. Do the necessary rites, and you propitiate the gods; and these rites were often trivial, sometimes violated right feeling or even morality. Even when the gods stood on the side of righteousness, they were concerned with the act more than with the intent. But Marcus Aurelius knows that what the heart is full of, the man will do. ‘Such as thy thoughts and ordinary cogitations are,’ he says, ‘such will thy mind be in time.’ And every page of the book shows us that he knew thought was sure to issue in act. He drills his soul, as it were, in right principles, that when the time comes, it may be guided by them. To wait until the emergency is to be too late. He sees also the true essence of happiness. ‘If happiness did consist in pleasure, how came notorious robbers, impure abominable livers, parricides, and tyrants, in so large a measure to have their part of pleasures?’ He who had all the world’s pleasures at command can write thus ‘A happy lot and portion is, good inclinations of the soul, good desires, good actions.’

By the irony of fate this man, so gentle and good, so desirous of quiet joys and a mind free from care, was set at the head of the Roman Empire when great dangers threatened from east and west. For several years he himself commanded his armies in chief. In camp before the Quadi he dates the first book of his Meditations, and shows how he could retire within himself amid the coarse clangour of arms. The pomps and glories which he despised were all his; what to most men is an ambition or a dream, to him was a round of weary tasks which nothing but the stern sense of duty could carry him through. And he did his work well. His wars were slow and tedious, but successful. With a statesman’s wisdom he foresaw the danger to Rome of the barbarian hordes from the north, and took measures to meet it. As it was, his settlement gave two centuries of respite to the Roman Empire; had he fulfilled the plan of pushing the imperial frontiers to the Elbe, which seems to have been in his mind, much more might have been accomplished. But death cut short his designs.

Truly a rare opportunity was given to Marcus Aurelius of showing what the mind can do in despite of circumstances. Most peaceful of warriors, a magnificent monarch whose ideal was quiet happiness in home life, bent to obscurity yet born to greatness, the loving father of children who died young or turned out hateful, his life was one paradox. That nothing might lack, it was in camp before the face of the enemy that he passed away and went to his own place.

Translations THE following is a list of the chief English translations of Marcus Aurelius: (1) By Meric Casaubon, 1634; (2) Jeremy Collier, 1701; (3) James Thomson, 1747; (4) R. Graves, 1792; (5) H. McCormac, 1844; (6) George Long, 1862; (7) G. H. Rendall, 1898; and (8) J. Jackson, 1906. Renan’s “Marc-Aurèle”—in his “History of the Origins of Christianity,” which appeared in 1882—is the most vital and original book to be had relating to the time of Marcus Aurelius. Pater’s “Marius the Epicurean” forms another outside commentary, which is of service in the imaginative attempt to create again the period.



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