Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

Meditations of
Marcus Aurelius


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Book II - 11

Since it is possible that thou mayest depart from life this very moment, regulate every act and thought accordingly.  But to go away from among men, if there are gods, is not a thing to be afraid of, for the gods will not involve thee in evil; but if indeed they do not exist, or if they have no concern about human affairs, what is it to me to live in a universe devoid of gods or devoid of Providence?  But in truth they do exist, and they do care for human things, and they have put all the means in man's power to enable him not to fall into real evils.  And as to the rest, if there was anything evil, they would have provided for this also, that it should be altogether in a man's power not to fall into it.  Now that which does not make a a man worse, how can it make a man's life worse?  But neither through ignorance, nor having the knowledge, but not the power to guard against or correct these things, is it possible that the universe has overlooked them; nor is it possible that it has made so great a mistake, either through want of power or want of skill, that good and evil should happen indescriminately to the good and the bad.  But death certainly, and life, honour and dishonour, pain and pleasure, all these things happen to good men and bad, being things which make us neither better nor worse.  Therefore they are neither good nor evil.

Book II - 12

How quickly all things disappear, in the universe the bodies themselves; but in time the remembrance of them; what is the nature of all sensible things, and paricularly those which attract with the bait of pleasure or terrify by pain, or are noised abroad by vapoury fame; how worthless, and comptemptible, and sordid, and perishable, and dead they are -- all this it is part of the intellectual faculty to observe.  To observe too who these are whose opinions and voice give reputation; what death is, and the fact that, if a man looks at it in itself, and by the abstractive power of reflection resolves into their parts all the things which present themselves to the imagination in it, he will then consider it to be nothing else than an operation of nature; and if any one is afraid of an operation of nature, he is a child.  This, however, is not only an operation of nature, but it is also a thing which conduces to the purposes of nature.  To observe too how man comes near to the deity, and by what part of him, and when this part of man is so disposed.

Book II - 13

Nothing is more wretched than a man who traverses everything in a round, and pries into the things beneath the earth, as the poet [Cf. Plato, Theaetetus, 173] says, and seeks by conjecture what is in the minds of his neighbours, without perceiving that it is sufficient to attend to the daemon within him, and to reverence it sincerely.  And reverence of the daemon consists in keeping it pure from passion and thoughtlessness, and dissatisfaction with what comes from gods and men.  For the things from the gods merit veneration for their excellence; and the things from men should always be dear to us by reason of kinship; and sometimes even, in manner, they move our pity by reason of men's ignorance of good and bad; this defect being not less than that which deprives us of the power of distinguishing things that are white and black.

Book II - 14

Though thou shouldst be going to live three thousand years, and as many times ten thousand years, still remember that no man loses any other life than this which he now lives, nor lives any other than this which he now loses.  The longest and shortest are thus brought to the same.  For the present is the same to us all, though that which perishes is not the same; and so that which is lost appears to be a mere moment.  For a man cannot lose either the past or the future: for what a man has not, how can any one take this from him?  These two things then thou must bear in mind; the one, that all things from eternity are of like forms and come round in a circle, and that it makes no difference whether a man shall see the same things during a hundred years or two hundred, or an infinite; and the second, that the longest liver and he who will die soonest lose just the same.  For the present is the only thing of which a man can be deprived, if it is true tat this is the only thing which he has, and that a man cannot lose a thing if he has it not.

Book II - 15

Remember that all is opinion.  For what was said by the Cynic Monimus is manifest; and manifest too is the use of what was said, if a man recieves what may be got out of it as far it is true.

Book II - 16

The soul of a man does violence to itself, first of all, when it becomes an abscess and, as it were, a tumour on the universe, so far as it can.  For to be vexed at anything which happens is a seperation of ourselves from nature, in some part of which the natures of all other things are contained.  In the next place, the soul does violence to itself when it turns away from any man, or even moves towards him with the intention of injuring, such are the souls of those who are angry.  In the third place, the soul does violence to itself when it is overpowered by pleasure or pain.  Fourthly, when it plays a part, and does or says anything insincerely and untruly.  Fifthly, when it allows any act of its own and any movement to be without an aim, and does anything thoughtlessly and without considering what it is, it being right that even the smallest things be done with reference to an end; and the end of rational animals is to follow the reason and the law of the most ancient city and polity.

Book II - 17

Of human life time is a point, and the substance is in a flux, and the perception dull, and the composition of the whole body subject to putrefaction, and the soul a whirl, and fortune hard to divine, and fame a thing devoid of judgement.  And, to say all in a word, everything which belongs to the body is a stream, and what belongs to the soul is a dream and vapour, and life is a warfare and a stranger's sojourn, and after-fame is oblivion.  What then is that which is able to conduct a man?  One thing and only one, philosophy.  But this consists of keeping the daemon within a man free from violence and unharmed, superior to pains and pleasures, doing nothing without a purpose, nor yet falsely and with hypocrisy, not feeling the need of another man's doing or not doing anything; and besides, accepting all that happens, and all that is allotted, as coming from thence, wherever it is, from whence he himself came; and, finally, waiting for death with a cheerful mind, as being nothing else than a dissolution of the elements of which every living thing is compounded.  But if there is no harm to the elements themselves in each continually changing into another, why should a man have any apprehension about the change and dissolution of all the elements?  For it is according to nature, and nothing is evil which is according to nature.

This in Carnuntum.

Meditations of Marcus Aurelius Book III

We ought not only to consider that our life is daily wasting away and a smaller part of it is left, but another thing also must be taken into the account, that if a man should live longer, it is quite uncertain whether the understanding will still continue sufficient for the comprehension of things, and retain the power of contemplation which strives to acquire the knowledge of the divine and the human.  For if he shall begin to fall into dotage, perspiration and nutrition and imagination and appetite, and whatever else there is of this kind, will not fail; but the power of making use of ourselves, and filling up the measure of our duty, and clearly seperating all appearances, and considering whether a man should now depart from life, and whatever else of the kind absolutely requires a disciplined reason, all this is already extinguished.  We must make haste then, not only because we are daily nearer to death, but also because the conception of things and the understanding of them cease first.

Book III - 2

We ought to observe also that even the things which follow after the things which are produced according to nature contain something pleasing and attractive.  For instance, when bread is baked some parts are split at the surface, and these parts which are thus open, and have a certain fashion contrary to the purpose of the baker's art, are beautiful in a manner, and in a peculiar way excite a desire for eating.  And again, figs, when they are quite ripe, gape open; and in the ripe olives the very circumstance of their being near to rottenness adds a peculiar beauty to the fruit.  And in the ears of corn bending down, and the lion's eyebrows, and the foam which flows from the mouth of wild boars, and many other things -- though they are far from being beautiful, if a man should examine them severally -- still, because they are consequent upon the things which are formed by nature, help to adorn them, and they please the mind; so that if a man should have a feeling and deeper insight with respect to the things which are produced in the universe, there is hardly one of those which follow by way of consequence which will not seem to be in a manner disposed so as to give pleasure.  And so he will see even the real gaping jaws of wild beasts with no less pleasure than those which painters and sculptors show by imitiation; and in an old woman and an old man he will be able to see a certain maturity and comeliness; and the attractive loveliness of young persons he will be able to look on with chaste eyes; and many such things will present themselves, not pleasing to every man, but to him only who has become truly familiar with nature and her works.

Book III - 3

Hippocrates after curing many diseases himself fell sick and died.  The Chaldaei foretold the deaths of many, and then fate caught them too.  Alexander, and Pompeius, and Caius Caesar, after so often completely destroying whole cities, and in battle cutting to pieces many ten thousands of calvary and infantry, themselves too at last departed from life.  Heraclitus, after so many speculations on the conflagaration of the universe, was filled with water internally and died smeared all over with mud.  And lice destroyed Democritus; and other lice killed Socrates.  What means all this?  Thou hast embarked, thou hast made voyage, thou art come to shore; get out.  If indeed to another life, there is no want of gods, not even there.  But if to a state without sensation, thou wilt cease to be held by pains and pleasures, and to be a slave to the vessel, which is as much inferior as that which serves it is superior: for the one is intelligence and deity; the other is earth and corruption.

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