Translated by George Long
Search The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius
1. Wilt thou, then, my soul, never be good and simple and one and naked, more
manifest than the body which surrounds thee? Wilt thou never enjoy an affectionate
and contented disposition? Wilt thou never be full and without a want of
any kind, longing for nothing more, nor desiring anything, either animate
or inanimate, for the enjoyment of pleasures? Nor yet desiring time wherein
thou shalt have longer enjoyment, or place, or pleasant climate, or society
of men with whom thou mayest live in harmony? But wilt thou be satisfied
with thy present condition, and pleased with all that is about thee, and
wilt thou convince thyself that thou hast everything and that it comes
from the gods, that everything is well for thee, and will be well whatever
shall please them, and whatever they shall give for the conservation of
the perfect living being, the good and just and beautiful, which generates
and holds together all things, and contains and embraces all things which
are dissolved for the production of other like things? Wilt thou never
be such that thou shalt so dwell in community with gods and men as neither
to find fault with them at all, nor to be condemned by
2. Observe what thy nature requires, so far as thou art governed by
nature only: then do it and accept it, if thy nature, so far as thou art
a living being, shall not be made worse by it. And next thou must observe what thy nature requires so far as thou
art a living being. And all this thou mayest allow thyself, if thy nature,
so far as thou art a rational animal, shall not be made worse by it. But
the rational animal is consequently also a political (social) animal. Use
these rules, then, and trouble thyself about nothing
3. Everything which happens either happens in such wise as thou art
formed by nature to bear it, or as thou art not formed by nature to bear
it. If, then, it happens to thee in such way as thou art formed by nature
to bear it, do not complain, but bear it as thou art formed by nature to
bear it. But if it happens in such wise as thou art not formed by nature
to bear it, do not complain, for it will perish after it has consumed thee.
Remember, however, that thou art formed by nature to bear everything, with
respect to which it depends on thy own opinion [judgment] to make it endurable and
tolerable, by thinking that it is either thy interest or thy duty to do
6.  Whether the universe is a concourse of atoms, or nature is a system, let this first be established, that I am a part of the whole which is governed by nature; next, I am in a manner intimately related to the parts which are of the same kind with myself. For remembering this, inasmuch as I am a part, I shall be discontented with none of the things which are assigned to me out of the whole; for nothing is injurious to the part, if it is for the advantage of the whole. For the whole contains nothing which is not for its advantage; and all natures indeed have this common principle, but the nature of the universe has this principle besides, that it cannot be compelled even by any external cause to generate anything harmful to itself.
 By remembering, then, that I am a part of such a whole, I shall
be content with everything that happens. And inasmuch as I am in a manner
intimately related to the parts which are of the same kind with myself,
I shall do nothing unsocial, but I shall rather direct myself to the things
which are of the same kind with myself, and I shall turn an my efforts
to the common interest, and divert them from the contrary. Now, if these
things are done so, life must flow on happily, just as thou mayest observe
that the life of a citizen is happy, who continues a course of action which
is advantageous to his fellow-citizens, and is content with whatever the
state may assign to him.
7.  The parts of the whole, everything, I mean, which is naturally comprehended in the universe, must of necessity perish; but let this be understood in this sense, that they must undergo change. But if this is naturally both an evil and a necessity for the parts, the whole would not continue to exist in a good condition, the parts being subject to change and constituted so as to perish in various ways. For whether did nature herself design to do evil to the things which are parts of herself, and to make them subject to evil and of necessity fall into evil, or have such results happened without her knowing it? Both these suppositions, indeed, are incredible.
 But if a man should even drop the term Nature (as an efficient power), and should speak of these things as natural, even then it would be ridiculous to affirm at the same time that the parts of the whole are in their nature subject to change, and at the same time to be surprised or vexed as if something were happening contrary to nature, particularly as the dissolution of things is into those things of which each thing is composed. For there is either a dispersion of the elements out of which everything has been compounded, or a change from the solid to the earthy and from the airy to the aerial, so that these parts are taken back into the universal reason, whether this at certain periods is consumed by fire or renewed by eternal changes.
 And do not imagine that the solid and the
airy part belong to thee from the time of generation. For all this received
its accretion only yesterday and the day before, as one may say, from the
food and the air which is inspired. This, then, which has received the
accretion, changes, not that which thy mother brought forth. But suppose
that this which thy mother brought forth implicates thee very much with
that other part, which has the peculiar quality of change, this is nothing
in fact in the way of objection to what is said.
8.  When thou hast assumed these names, good, modest, true, rational, a man of equanimity, and magnanimous, take care that thou dost not change these names; and if thou shouldst lose them, quickly return to them. And remember that the term Rational was intended to signify a discriminating attention to every several thing and freedom from negligence; and that Equanimity is the voluntary acceptance of the things which are assigned to thee by the common nature; and that Magnanimity is the elevation of the intelligent part above the pleasurable or painful sensations of the flesh, and above that poor thing called fame, and death, and all such things. If, then, thou maintainest thyself in the possession of these names, without desiring to be called by these names by others, thou wilt be another person and wilt enter on another life.
 For to continue to be such as thou hast hitherto been, and to be tom in pieces and defiled in such a life, is the character of a very stupid man and one overfond of his life, and like those half-devoured fighters with wild beasts, who though covered with wounds and gore, still intreat to be kept to the following day, though they will be exposed in the same state to the same claws and bites.
 Therefore fix thyself in the possession of these few names: and if thou art able to abide in them, abide as if thou wast removed to certain islands of the Happy. But if thou shalt perceive that thou fallest out of them and dost not maintain thy hold, go courageously into some nook where thou shalt maintain them, or even depart at once from life, not in passion, but with simplicity and freedom and modesty, after doing this one laudable thing at least in thy life, to have gone out of it thus.
 In order, however, to the remembrance
of these names, it will greatly help thee, if thou rememberest the gods,
and that they wish not to be flattered, but wish all reasonable beings
to be made like themselves; and if thou rememberest that what does the
work of a fig-tree is a fig-tree, and that what does the work of a dog
is a dog, and that what does the work of a bee is a bee, and that what
does the work of a man is a man.
9. Mimi, war, astonishment, torpor, slavery, will daily wipe out those holy principles of thine. How many things without studying nature dost thou imagine, and how many dost thou neglect? But it is thy duty so to look on and so to do everything, that at the same time the power of dealing with circumstances is perfected, and the contemplative faculty is exercised, and the confidence which comes from the knowledge of each several thing is maintained without showing it, but yet not concealed.
For when wilt
thou enjoy simplicity, when gravity, and when the knowledge of every several
thing, both what it is in substance, and what place it has in the universe,
and how long it is formed to exist and of what things it is compounded,
and to whom it can belong, and who are able both to give it and take it
10. A spider is proud when it has caught a fly, and another when he
has caught a poor hare, and another when he has taken a little fish in
taken bears, and another when he has taken Sarmatians. Are not these robbers,
if thou examinest their opinions?
11. Acquire the contemplative way of seeing how all things change into
one another, and constantly attend to it, and exercise thyself about this
part of philosophy. For nothing is so much adapted to produce magnanimity.
Such a man has put off the body, and as he sees that he must, no one knows
how soon, go away from among men and leave everything here, he gives himself
up entirely to just doing in all his actions, and in everything else that
happens he resigns himself to the universal nature. But as to what any
man shall say or think about him or do against him, he never even thinks
of it, being himself contented with these two things, with acting justly
in what he now does, and being satisfied with what is now assigned to him;
and he lays aside all distracting and busy pursuits, and desires nothing
else than to accomplish the straight course through the law, and by accomplishing
the straight course to follow God.
12. What need is there of suspicious fear, since it is in thy power to inquire what ought to be done? And if thou seest clear, go by this way content, without turning back: but if thou dost not see clear, stop and take the best advisers. But if any other things oppose thee, go on according to thy powers with due consideration, keeping to that which appears to be just. For it is best to reach this object, and if thou dost fail, let thy failure be in attempting this.
13. Inquire of thyself as soon as thou wakest from sleep, whether it
will make any difference to thee, if another does what is just and right.
It will make no difference.
14. To her who gives and takes back all, to nature, the man who is
instructed and modest says, Give what thou wilt; take back what thou wilt.
And he says this not proudly, but obediently and well pleased with
15. Short is the little which remains to thee of life. Live as on a
mountain. For it makes no difference whether a man lives there or here,
if he lives everywhere in the world as in a state (political community).
Let men see, let them know a real man who lives according to nature. If
they cannot endure him, let them kill him. For that is better than to live
thus as men do.
19. Consider what men are when they are eating, sleeping, generating,
easing themselves and so forth. Then what kind of men they are when they
are imperious and arrogant, or angry and scolding from their elevated place.
But a short time ago to how many they were slaves and for what things;
and after a little time consider in what a condition they will
21. "The earth loves the shower"; and "the solemn aether loves": and
the universe loves to make whatever is about to be. I say then to the universe,
that I love as thou lovest. And is not this too said, that "this or that
loves (is wont) to be produced"?
22. Either thou livest here and hast already accustomed thyself to
it, or thou art going away, and this was thy own will; or thou art dying
and hast discharged thy duty. But besides these things there is nothing.
Be of good cheer, then.
23. Let this always be plain to thee, that this piece of land is like
any other; and that all things here are the same with things on top of
a mountain,m or on the sea-shore, or wherever thou choosest to be. For thou
wilt find just what Plato says, Dwelling within the walls of a city as
in a shepherd's fold on a mountain.
24. What is my ruling faculty now to me? And of what nature am I now
making it? And for what purpose am I now using it? Is it void of understanding?
Is it loosed and rent asunder from social life? Is it melted into and mixed
with the poor flesh so as to move together with it?
25. He who flies from his master is a runaway; but the law is master,
and he who breaks the law is a runaway. And he also who is grieved or angry
or afraid, is dissatisfied because something has been or is or shall be
of the things which are appointed by him who rules all things, and he is
Law, and assigns to every man what is fit. He then who fears or is grieved
or is angry is a runaway.
26. A man deposits seed in a womb and goes away, and then another cause takes it, and labours on it and makes a child. What a thing from such a material! Again, the child passes food down through the throat, and then another cause takes it and makes perception and motion, and in fine life and strength and other things; how many and how strange
27. Constantly consider how all things such as they now are, in time
past also were; and consider that they will be the same again. And place
before thy eyes entire dramas and stages of the same form, whatever thou
hast learned from thy experience or from older history; for example, the
whole court of Hadrian, and the whole court of Antoninus, and the whole
court of Philip, Alexander, Croesus; for all those were such dramas as
we see now, only with different actors.
28. Imagine every man who is grieved at anything or discontented to
be like a pig which is sacrificed and kicks and screams.
30. When thou art offended at any man's fault, forthwith turn to thyself
and reflect in what like manner thou dost err thyself; for example, in
thinking that money is a good thing, or pleasure, or a bit of reputation,
and the like. For by attending to this thou wilt quickly forget thy anger,
if this consideration also is added, that the man is compelled: for what
else could he do? or, if thou art able, take away from him the
31. When thou hast seen Satyron the Socratic, think of either Eutyches or Hymen, and when thou hast seen Euphrates, think of Eutychion or Silvanus, and when thou hast seen Alciphron think of Tropaeophorus, and when thou hast seen Xenophon think of Crito or Severus, and when thou hast looked on thyself, think of any other Caesar, and in the case of every one do in like manner. Then let this thought be in thy mind, Where then are those men? Nowhere, or nobody knows where. For thus continuously thou wilt look at human things as smoke and nothing at all; especially if thou reflectest at the same time that what has once changed will never exist again in the infinite duration of time. But thou, in what a brief space of time is thy existence? And why art thou not content to pass through this short time in an orderly way?
What matter and opportunity for thy activity art thou
avoiding? For what else are all these things, except exercises for the
reason, when it has viewed carefully and by examination into their nature
the things which happen in life? Persevere then until thou shalt have made
these things thy own, as the stomach which is strengthened makes all things
its own, as the blazing fire makes flame and brightness out of everything
that is thrown into it.
32. Let it not be in any man's power to say truly of thee that thou
art not simple or that thou are not good; but let him be a liar whoever
shall think anything of this kind about thee; and this is altogether in
thy power. For who is he that shall hinder thee from being good and simple?
Do thou only determine to live no longer, unless thou shalt be such. For
neither does reason allow thee to live, if thou art not
33.  What is that which as to this material (our life) can be done or said in the way most conformable to reason. For whatever this may be, it is in thy power to do it or to say it, and do not make excuses that thou art hindered. Thou wilt not cease to lament till thy mind is in such a condition that, what luxury is to those who enjoy pleasure, such shall be to thee, in the matter which is subjected and presented to thee, the doing of the things which are conformable to man's constitution; for a man ought to consider as an enjoyment everything which it is in his power to do according to his own nature. And it is in his power everywhere.
 Now, it is not given to a cylinder to move everywhere by its own motion, nor yet to water nor to fire, nor to anything else which is governed by nature or an irrational soul, for the things which check them and stand in the way are many. But intelligence and reason are able to go through everything that opposes them, and in such manner as they are formed by nature and as they choose.
 Place before thy eyes this facility with which the reason will be carried through all things, as fire upwards, as a stone downwards, as a cylinder down an inclined surface, and seek for nothing further. For all other obstacles either affect the body only which is a dead thing; or, except through opinion [judgment] and the yielding of the reason itself, they do not crush nor do any harm of any kind;
 for if they did, he who felt
it would immediately become bad. Now, in the case of all things which have
a certain constitution, whatever harm may happen to any of them, that which
is so affected becomes consequently worse; but in the like case, a man
becomes both better, if one may say so, and more worthy of praise by making
a right use of these accidents. And finally remember that nothing harms
him who is really a citizen, which does not harm the state; nor yet does
anything harm the state, which does not harm law (order); and of these
things which are called misfortunes not one harms law. What then does not
harm law does not harm either state or citizen.
34. To him who is penetrated by true principles even the briefest precept
is sufficient, and any common precept, to remind him that he should be
free from grief and fear. For example-
35. The healthy eye ought to see all visible things and not to say,
I wish for green things; for this is the condition of a diseased eye. And
the healthy hearing and smelling ought to be ready to perceive all that
can be heard and smelled. And the healthy stomach ought to be with respect
to all food just as the mill with respect to all things which it is formed
to grind. And accordingly the healthy understanding ought to be prepared
for everything which happens; but that which says, Let my dear children
live, and let all men praise whatever I may do, is an eye which seeks for
green things, or teeth which seek for soft things.
36. There is no man so fortunate that there shall not be by him when he is dying some who are pleased with what is going to happen. Suppose that he was a good and wise man, will there not be at last some one to say to himself, Let us at last breathe freely being relieved from this schoolmaster? It is true that he was harsh to none of us, but I perceived that he tacitly condemns us.- This is what is said of a good man. But in our own case how many other things are there for which there are many who wish to get rid of us. Thou wilt consider this then when thou art dying, and thou wilt depart more contentedly by reflecting thus: I am going away from such a life, in which even my associates in behalf of whom I have striven so much, prayed, and cared, themselves wish me to depart, hoping perchance to get some little advantage by it. Why then should a man cling to a longer stay here?
Do not however for this reason go away less kindly
disposed to them, but preserving thy own character, and friendly and benevolent
and mild, and on the other hand not as if thou wast torn away; but as when
a man dies a quiet death, the poor soul is easily separated from the body,
such also ought thy departure from men to be, for nature united thee to
them and associated thee. But does she now dissolve the union? Well, I
am separated as from kinsmen, not however dragged resisting, but without
compulsion; for this too is one of the things according to
37. Accustom thyself as much as possible on the occasion of anything
being done by any person to inquire with thyself, For what object is this
man doing this? But begin with thyself, and examine thyself
38. Remember that this which pulls the strings is the thing which is hidden within: this is the power of persuasion, this is life, this, if one may so say, is man. In contemplating thyself never include the vessel which surrounds thee and these instruments which are attached about it. For they are like to an axe, differing only in this that they grow to the body. For indeed there is no more use in these parts without the cause which moves and checks them than in the weaver's shuttle, and the writer's pen and the driver's whip.