The meditations

by Russell McNeil

Other authorsGregory Hays (Translator)
Paperback, 2002

Status

Available

Publication

New York : Modern Library, 2002.

Description

A new translation, the first in thirty-five years, of one of the most influential and admired books of the ages, the reflections of Marcus Aurelius, Stoic philosopher and emperor of Rome 161-180 A.D., few books have meant as much to as many as Marcus Aurelius's Meditations. It remains a life-enhancing work of the basics of Stoic doctrine, Aurelius's life and career, the recurring themes and structure of the work's ongoing influence.

User reviews

LibraryThing member sagacious33
I've often wondered why we, as a society, focus so much on the views of the powerful and the wealthy. Surely there are millions of men and women who have sided toward a philosophy weighted with moral integrity . I decided that the wealthy and the powerful must overcome temptations that the average man or woman would never dream of. The antics of today's Hollywood stars should suffice to demonstrate that fame, wealth and power can saturate men and women in false senses of superiority. And money and power must provide access to a large variety of creative sins. Despite these realities, Marcus Aurelius, in the years 121-180 A.D., explores a very healthy mindset and provides some guidelines that are every bit as applicable today, some 1940 years later, as they were in the midst of the Roman Empire.… (more)
LibraryThing member drewandlori
This book was originally Marcus Aurelius's journal of philosophical notes to himself, and it definitely shows. Marcus was obviously a talented writer, and parts of it are very interesting, but he makes his points in a more or less random order, and it tends to get really repetitive. The repetition was probably great for Marcus, because it shows which ideas he really felt the need to constantly remind himself of, but on the other hand it's not that helpful for the rest of us.… (more)
LibraryThing member bezoar44
(review of Gregory Hays translation, 2003 Modern Library edition)

The Meditations are, as presented by Hays in his very helpful introduction, best understood as the private spiritual exercises of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Hays' introduction lays out the various philosophic strains that shaped Marcus Aurelius' thinking, and fits the work into the broader cultural context of late Roman attitudes towards life, philosophy, and religion. The translation is fluid and incisive, making the thoughts come alive.

The Mediations will reward periodic rereading. The author spirals obsessively around a handful of philosophical themes: that everything we know, love, or hate is transient and will pass away; that freedom comes from accepting that most of the world - everything other than one's own choices about how to behave -- ultimately lies beyond one's control; that virtue is rooted in self-discipline. For most of us, there's a lot more to life than this, but as he works and reworks his themes, Marcus Aurelius reveals new angles or insights that give the Meditations a rich depth. Throughout, I kept wondering, with his focus on transience, self-discipline, and compassion towards others, what Marcus Aurelius would have made of Buddhism.

Underlying its wisdom, the Meditations carries two striking internal tensions. The first may simply reflect the gap between the author's intent - personal spiritual exercises -- and the book's acquired status as a work for the ages. Marcus Aurelius constantly suggests that anyone in his audience can follow his advice and be free. On the other hand, the author's position -- a patriarch among patriarchs -- is hardly universal. Only for a person with great privilege could the problem of suffering look so manageable through simple willpower. This tension subsides if Marcus Aurelius really wrote for himself alone.

The other major tension doesn't depend on the intended audience: Marcus Aurelius repeatedly orders the reader both to live in the present, and to be strategic - which necessarily implies thinking several steps ahead. That contradiction isn't unique to the Meditations; it's a challenge for all philosophic or religious systems that affirm transcendent values while also encouraging followers to engage and shape the world. While the tension is not resolved (can it ever be?), it gives the Meditations a realistic, pragmatic feel.
… (more)
LibraryThing member P_S_Patrick
The 200 or so pages of this book contain the thoughts of Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor and Stoic. Although being billed as his meditations, it is explained in the preface that he has also noted down the thoughts of other philosophers among his own, and these are not referenced, so will be up to you to spot them. They were originally written only for himself though, so he cannot be blamed for this.
On the whole I think that the bad press that Stoic philosophy gets is undeserved. The message this book gives is generally positive, and if everyone took notice of it then the world would be a more pleasant place. That isn't to say that it is all correct though, and what a lot of it comes down to is sticking one's head in the sand, and accepting the "order of the universe", or fate. This does do a good job of promoting the virtues of tolerance, and being content with your lot, though, and this is not a bad thing per se.
This edition is the one translated straight from an ancient greek manuscript, in the 17th Century, and so the language retains some of the antiquated style you would expect from a text originally written over 1800 years ago.
I would reccomend this book to those who think they may be interested in it, but it is probably more of one to dip into, than to read straight through. This is for a couple of reasons, one being that it can seem a bit repetitive, and the other bieng that you may find it hard to concentrate on, as some of the sentences are inarticulately long.
… (more)
LibraryThing member NielsenGW
Marcus Aurelius was Emperor of the Roman Empire from 161 to 180 CE. Considered the last of the Five Good Emperors, he oversaw his empire with stoicism and equality. In his Meditations, written while on a military campaign in the last decade of his life, he sets forth a series of aphorisms, letters, and principles that he tried to live by. As a stoic, he thought that powerful emotions were the cause of errors in life and so sought to live a life of a more moral and intellectual manner.

The Meditations aren’t really written for an audience, and this translation is a little stilted. But what you can tell is that Marcus Aurelius is trying to reflect upon a rather interesting life. There are times when he is contented in good memories and times when the ennui of his stoic life gets to him. But the overall message is to live a good life (“Death hangs over you: while you live, and while you may, be good”) and try not to be too overly swayed by things outside of one’s control. “It is not right to vex ourselves at things,” he says, “for they care not about it.”

In the end, Marcus Aurelius’s message is both honorable and interesting. The writing takes a little getting used to, so it would behoove readers to find a good translation. It is, however, a rather good beginning look into stoicism and its effectiveness in the proper hands. Marcus Aurelius, when set against the likes of Nero and Domitian, rules in the vein of a philosopher king and tries desperately to do right by his people. All in all, a refreshing and intellectual book.
… (more)
LibraryThing member keylawk
The Stoic Emperor, succeeded to the imperial throne in 161 until his death in 180 AD. His rule was marked by justice and moderation, although the frontier was in constant defense against "barbarian hordes". Also, during this reign a severe pestilence struck Rome. The populace concluded that the anger of the gods had been incurred by their neglect in the hands of Christians, and Aurelius seems to have led his panicked people in their cruel prosecution.

The Meditations were written in Greek with a view to practical application of Stoic precepts.
… (more)
LibraryThing member dustandshadow
I really rather enjoyed this. I admit I don't know much aside from the basics of Marcus Aurelius. I found a lot of simple wisdom in this work.

A few favorite lines:

“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.”
“You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”
“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”
“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.”
… (more)
LibraryThing member johnxlibris
There is something about Marcus Aurelius's brand of Stoicism that appeals to me. His almost simple belief in the power of reason and truth is comforting. His text offers helpful habits of mind that would be appreciated by anyone who values the practice of mindfulness and attention. I can easily see myself coming back to this book later in life.… (more)
LibraryThing member BookMonkee
The philosophy of a stoic emperor of Rome. (The old geezer in Gladiator)
LibraryThing member millata
This book is not my favourite of the Great Ideas series but it wasn't all bad either. I would categorise it as: "a classic you might as well read" because even if I wouldn't read it again there were still some good bits and as the book can be finished in one afternoon, you won't feel like you wasted a lot of time in the event you won't enjoy it.… (more)
LibraryThing member Anituel
An important, but oft neglected, work of Graeco-Roman philosophy. Marcus Aurelius was insightful, if not extremely downhearted, and represents some of the finest philosophical thinking of his time.
LibraryThing member dir21
This is one of the most splendid things that I have ever read. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is full of ideas by which to live, many of which are also highly suitable for printing out and pinning to your office wall. Another reviewer has already quoted my favourite meditation, `Begin each day ...' so I won't repeat it here. Donning my Old Fart's hat I have to say that the world would be an infinitely better place if more people had read this.… (more)
LibraryThing member GlennBell
The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius is an understandable book in which the Roman emperor provides his philosophy on life, death, and morality. He appears to have been a pious man who believed in the Roman gods. He believed in a moral life and the morality of his gods. He appears practical and spends a good deal of his discussion on the topic of death. I recommend the book for someone interested in historical philosophy. His understanding was limited by the science of the day, but he his thoughts on life and morality are still valuable.… (more)
LibraryThing member Grognard
Most religions in the eras of the Greeks and Romans offered less in the way of moral guidelines than they offered in bad examples. The gods were worse than human. Morality and values were left to the exploration and exposition of philosophers. The dominant philosophy in Rome prior to Christianity was stoicism, inherited from the Greeks and practiced thoroughly by Marcus Aurelius, the "last good emperor", who had a bit role early in the movie "The Gladiator." These meditations were written by him, largely while in his headquarters in military campaigns, and were reportedly U.S. Grant's favorite reading in his tent during the Civil War. The state of philosophy and values were remarkably refined before the advent of Christianity and devoid of the politics and conflicts that came with the Judeo/Christian religion. Marcus Aurelius does an admirable job of advocating the values that guided his life. An eye-opening exposure to realms of thought not normally found when one explores the origins of modern religion.… (more)
LibraryThing member charlie68
A book to savour. A lot of things that are agreeable. Not originally for publication just Aurelius' private thoughts. Not a lot that I disagreed with.
LibraryThing member librarianbryan
Hodge podge of truisms by a world leader obviously convinced of his own moral superiority. Is there wisdom in here? Sure, but it is wisdom any intelligent, remotely self reflective, person will already possess.
LibraryThing member Kelsomar
This book definately left me thinking. It was engaging and a times difficult but overall I think Meditations is a very worthwhile read.
LibraryThing member chriszodrow
The end of the Roman culture was marked by spiritual decay. This book reveals the anatomy of parched empire. A necessary but painful read.
LibraryThing member kencf0618
Stoicism is a important thread in Western philosophy and Christianity, but as its own belief system it amounts to a denial of reality. One can imagine a Marcus Aurelius reading an Oswald Spengler at dusk.
LibraryThing member HadriantheBlind
The inner thoughts of a Roman emperor. Profound and for some, inspiring. A mournful, yet strong man, philosopher-king, which we don't see too often anywhere.
LibraryThing member MarieAlt
Annoyed that I can't find my edition, but there's only so much I'm willing to do with there are more than 200 editions. :P

And no rating because it doesn't really rate on the scale. It is what it is and the free ebook available from GR isn't great...looks like scanning issues. Not unreadable though, unless you despise King James era English, and this is pretty convoluted even for that. Reader beware.… (more)
LibraryThing member albertgoldfain
Succinct self-help for the stoic. The introduction in the Modern Library edition sets the historical context well and the translation makes most of the advice read as practical and not overly-repetetive.
LibraryThing member joeodeg
I have read this book a number of times and always gain something new each time I revisit it. Although I find aspects of Stoic thinking quite foreign, there is unquestionably a disciplined and humble mind behind these words. I wish more of our contemporary leaders could muster the courage to be as humble.
LibraryThing member dcunning11235
"Meditations" is a collection of aphorisms, musings, quotes, and, essentially, diary entries from a Roman emperor who would have been one of Plato's Philosopher-Kings. Concerned greatly with his philosophy (a Stoicism mixed with other influences) and how he should live his life, these are essentially notes and reflections meant for himself. As such, it must be admitted that there is quite a lot of repetition here. In some sense that is actually not bad: it becomes quite obvious that Marcus Aurelius struggled often and greatly to live up to the values and ethics he believed in.

Note: this is not the kind of book you sit down and read through, but rather pick through over days. If you do try to just run through it the above-mentioned repetition will somewhat ruin it.
… (more)
LibraryThing member riskedom
The main attraction of this book is that it is a book of philosophy written by an emperor. If it was written by someone of more lowly stature it would surely have been forgotten. It is a good insight into his mind but an unfortunate boon to those who love to think the best rulers are those who think philosophically. It would be more interesting to me if it was written by some unknown blacksmith, tailor or farm slave. At least then the question of how they acquired an education in Stoic philosophy would be interesting speculation. Nonetheless, there is some wisdom in the writings and it is encouraging to know that in the midst of such grueling military campaigns he could find time to compose a journal of something other than the progress of the legions against the barbarians.… (more)

Language

Original language

Latin

Barcode

3025
Page: 0.2937 seconds