THE MEDITATIONS

Of

MARCUS AURELIUS ANTONINUS

Translated by George Long


BOOK I

FROM my grandfather Verus I learned good morals and the government
of my temper.
  From the reputation and remembrance of my father, modesty and a
manly character.
  From my mother, piety and beneficence, and abstinence, not only from
evil deeds, but even from evil thoughts; and further, simplicity in my
way of living, far removed from the habits of the rich.
  From my great-grandfather, not to have frequented public schools,
and to have had good teachers at home, and to know that on such things
a man should spend liberally.
  From my governor, to be neither of the green nor of the blue party
at the games in the Circus, nor a partizan either of the Parmularius
or the Scutarius at the gladiators' fights; from him too I learned
endurance of labour, and to want little, and to work with my own
hands, and not to meddle with other people's affairs, and not to be
ready to listen to slander.
  From Diognetus, not to busy myself about trifling things, and not to
give credit to what was said by miracle-workers and jugglers about
incantations and the driving away of daemons and such things; and
not to breed quails for fighting, nor to give myself up passionately
to such things; and to endure freedom of speech; and to have become
intimate with philosophy; and to have been a hearer, first of
Bacchius, then of Tandasis and Marcianus; and to have written
dialogues in my youth; and to have desired a plank bed and skin, and
whatever else of the kind belongs to the Grecian discipline.
  From Rusticus I received the impression that my character required
improvement and discipline; and from him I learned not to be led
astray to sophistic emulation, nor to writing on speculative
matters, nor to delivering little hortatory orations, nor to showing
myself off as a man who practises much discipline, or does
benevolent acts in order to make a display; and to abstain from
rhetoric, and poetry, and fine writing; and not to walk about in the
house in my outdoor dress, nor to do other things of the kind; and
to write my letters with simplicity, like the letter which Rusticus
wrote from Sinuessa to my mother; and with respect to those who have
offended me by words, or done me wrong, to be easily disposed to be
pacified and reconciled, as soon as they have shown a readiness to
be reconciled; and to read carefully, and not to be satisfied with a
superficial understanding of a book; nor hastily to give my assent
to those who talk overmuch; and I am indebted to him for being
acquainted with the discourses of Epictetus, which he communicated
to me out of his own collection.
  From Apollonius I learned freedom of will and undeviating steadiness
of purpose; and to look to nothing else, not even for a moment, except
to reason; and to be always the same, in sharp pains, on the
occasion of the loss of a child, and in long illness; and to see
clearly in a living example that the same man can be both most
resolute and yielding, and not peevish in giving his instruction;
and to have had before my eyes a man who clearly considered his
experience and his skill in expounding philosophical principles as the
smallest of his merits; and from him I learned how to receive from
friends what are esteemed favours, without being either humbled by
them or letting them pass unnoticed.
  From Sextus, a benevolent disposition, and the example of a family
governed in a fatherly manner, and the idea of living conformably to
nature; and gravity without affectation, and to look carefully after
the interests of friends, and to tolerate ignorant persons, and
those who form opinions without consideration: he had the power of
readily accommodating himself to all, so that intercourse with him was
more agreeable than any flattery; and at the same time he was most
highly venerated by those who associated with him: and he had the
faculty both of discovering and ordering, in an intelligent and
methodical way, the principles necessary for life; and he never showed
anger or any other passion, but was entirely free from passion, and
also most affectionate; and he could express approbation without noisy
display, and he possessed much knowledge without ostentation.
  From Alexander the grammarian, to refrain from fault-finding, and
not in a reproachful way to chide those who uttered any barbarous or
solecistic or strange-sounding expression; but dexterously to
introduce the very expression which ought to have been used, and in
the way of answer or giving confirmation, or joining in an inquiry
about the thing itself, not about the word, or by some other fit
suggestion.
  From Fronto I learned to observe what envy, and duplicity, and
hypocrisy are in a tyrant, and that generally those among us who are
called Patricians are rather deficient in paternal affection.
  From Alexander the Platonic, not frequently nor without necessity to
say to any one, or to write in a letter, that I have no leisure; nor
continually to excuse the neglect of duties required by our relation
to those with whom we live, by alleging urgent occupations.
  From Catulus, not to be indifferent when a friend finds fault,
even if he should find fault without reason, but to try to restore him
to his usual disposition; and to be ready to speak well of teachers,
as it is reported of Domitius and Athenodotus; and to love my children
truly.
  From my brother Severus, to love my kin, and to love truth, and to
love justice; and through him I learned to know Thrasea, Helvidius,
Cato, Dion, Brutus; and from him I received the idea of a polity in
which there is the same law for all, a polity administered with regard
to equal rights and equal freedom of speech, and the idea of a
kingly government which respects most of all the freedom of the
governed; I learned from him also consistency and undeviating
steadiness in my regard for philosophy; and a disposition to do
good, and to give to others readily, and to cherish good hopes, and to
believe that I am loved by my friends; and in him I observed no
concealment of his opinions with respect to those whom he condemned,
and that his friends had no need to conjecture what he wished or did
not wish, but it was quite plain.
  From Maximus I learned self-government, and not to be led aside by
anything; and cheerfulness in all circumstances, as well as in
illness; and a just admixture in the moral character of sweetness
and dignity, and to do what was set before me without complaining. I
observed that everybody believed that he thought as he spoke, and that
in all that he did he never had any bad intention; and he never showed
amazement and surprise, and was never in a hurry, and never put off
doing a thing, nor was perplexed nor dejected, nor did he ever laugh
to disguise his vexation, nor, on the other hand, was he ever
passionate or suspicious. He was accustomed to do acts of beneficence,
and was ready to forgive, and was free from all falsehood; and he
presented the appearance of a man who could not be diverted from right
rather than of a man who had been improved. I observed, too, that no
man could ever think that he was despised by Maximus, or ever
venture to think himself a better man. He had also the art of being
humorous in an agreeable way.
  In my father I observed mildness of temper, and unchangeable
resolution in the things which he had determined after due
deliberation; and no vainglory in those things which men call honours;
and a love of labour and perseverance; and a readiness to listen to
those who had anything to propose for the common weal; and undeviating
firmness in giving to every man according to his deserts; and a
knowledge derived from experience of the occasions for vigorous action
and for remission. And I observed that he had overcome all passion for
boys; and he considered himself no more than any other citizen; and he
released his friends from all obligation to sup with him or to
attend him of necessity when he went abroad, and those who had
failed to accompany him, by reason of any urgent circumstances, always
found him the same. I observed too his habit of careful inquiry in all
matters of deliberation, and his persistency, and that he never
stopped his investigation through being satisfied with appearances
which first present themselves; and that his disposition was to keep
his friends, and not to be soon tired of them, nor yet to be
extravagant in his affection; and to be satisfied on all occasions,
and cheerful; and to foresee things a long way off, and to provide for
the smallest without display; and to check immediately popular
applause and all flattery; and to be ever watchful over the things
which were necessary for the administration of the empire, and to be a
good manager of the expenditure, and patiently to endure the blame
which he got for such conduct; and he was neither superstitious with
respect to the gods, nor did he court men by gifts or by trying to
please them, or by flattering the populace; but he showed sobriety
in all things and firmness, and never any mean thoughts or action, nor
love of novelty. And the things which conduce in any way to the
commodity of life, and of which fortune gives an abundant supply, he
used without arrogance and without excusing himself; so that when he
had them, he enjoyed them without affectation, and when he had them
not, he did not want them. No one could ever say of him that he was
either a sophist or a home-bred flippant slave or a pedant; but
every one acknowledged him to be a man ripe, perfect, above
flattery, able to manage his own and other men's affairs. Besides
this, he honoured those who were true philosophers, and he did not
reproach those who pretended to be philosophers, nor yet was he easily
led by them. He was also easy in conversation, and he made himself
agreeable without any offensive affectation. He took a reasonable care
of his body's health, not as one who was greatly attached to life, nor
out of regard to personal appearance, nor yet in a careless way, but
so that, through his own attention, he very seldom stood in need of
the physician's art or of medicine or external applications. He was
most ready to give way without envy to those who possessed any
particular faculty, such as that of eloquence or knowledge of the
law or of morals, or of anything else; and he gave them his help, that
each might enjoy reputation according to his deserts; and he always
acted conformably to the institutions of his country, without
showing any affectation of doing so. Further, he was not fond of
change nor unsteady, but he loved to stay in the same places, and to
employ himself about the same things; and after his paroxysms of
headache he came immediately fresh and vigorous to his usual
occupations. His secrets were not but very few and very rare, and
these only about public matters; and he showed prudence and economy in
the exhibition of the public spectacles and the construction of public
buildings, his donations to the people, and in such things, for he was
a man who looked to what ought to be done, not to the reputation which
is got by a man's acts. He did not take the bath at unseasonable
hours; he was not fond of building houses, nor curious about what he
ate, nor about the texture and colour of his clothes, nor about the
beauty of his slaves. His dress came from Lorium, his villa on the
coast, and from Lanuvium generally. We know how he behaved to the
toll-collector at Tusculum who asked his pardon; and such was all
his behaviour. There was in him nothing harsh, nor implacable, nor
violent, nor, as one may say, anything carried to the sweating
point; but he examined all things severally, as if he had abundance of
time, and without confusion, in an orderly way, vigorously and
consistently. And that might be applied to him which is recorded of
Socrates, that he was able both to abstain from, and to enjoy, those
things which many are too weak to abstain from, and cannot enjoy
without excess. But to be strong enough both to bear the one and to be
sober in the other is the mark of a man who has a perfect and
invincible soul, such as he showed in the illness of Maximus.
  To the gods I am indebted for having good grandfathers, good
parents, a good sister, good teachers, good associates, good kinsmen
and friends, nearly everything good. Further, I owe it to the gods
that I was not hurried into any offence against any of them, though
I had a disposition which, if opportunity had offered, might have
led me to do something of this kind; but, through their favour,
there never was such a concurrence of circumstances as put me to the
trial. Further, I am thankful to the gods that I was not longer
brought up with my grandfather's concubine, and that I preserved the
flower of my youth, and that I did not make proof of my virility
before the proper season, but even deferred the time; that I was
subjected to a ruler and a father who was able to take away all
pride from me, and to bring me to the knowledge that it is possible
for a man to live in a palace without wanting either guards or
embroidered dresses, or torches and statues, and such-like show; but
that it is in such a man's power to bring himself very near to the
fashion of a private person, without being for this reason either
meaner in thought, or more remiss in action, with respect to the
things which must be done for the public interest in a manner that
befits a ruler. I thank the gods for giving me such a brother, who was
able by his moral character to rouse me to vigilance over myself,
and who, at the same time, pleased me by his respect and affection;
that my children have not been stupid nor deformed in body; that I did
not make more proficiency in rhetoric, poetry, and the other
studies, in which I should perhaps have been completely engaged, if
I had seen that I was making progress in them; that I made haste to
place those who brought me up in the station of honour, which they
seemed to desire, without putting them off with hope of my doing it
some time after, because they were then still young; that I knew
Apollonius, Rusticus, Maximus; that I received clear and frequent
impressions about living according to nature, and what kind of a
life that is, so that, so far as depended on the gods, and their
gifts, and help, and inspirations, nothing hindered me from
forthwith living according to nature, though I still fall short of
it through my own fault, and through not observing the admonitions
of the gods, and, I may almost say, their direct instructions; that my
body has held out so long in such a kind of life; that I never touched
either Benedicta or Theodotus, and that, after having fallen into
amatory passions, I was cured; and, though I was often out of humour
with Rusticus, I never did anything of which I had occasion to repent;
that, though it was my mother's fate to die young, she spent the
last years of her life with me; that, whenever I wished to help any
man in his need, or on any other occasion, I was never told that I had
not the means of doing it; and that to myself the same necessity never
happened, to receive anything from another; that I have such a wife,
so obedient, and so affectionate, and so simple; that I had
abundance of good masters for my children; and that remedies have been
shown to me by dreams, both others, and against bloodspitting and
giddiness...; and that, when I had an inclination to philosophy, I did
not fall into the hands of any sophist, and that I did not waste my
time on writers of histories, or in the resolution of syllogisms, or
occupy myself about the investigation of appearances in the heavens;
for all these things require the help of the gods and fortune.
  Among the Quadi at the Granua.

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