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Marcus Aurelius Antoninus
Meditations

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                            BOOK ONE

 

  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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