Translated by George Long
Search The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius
1.  These are the properties of the rational soul: it sees itself, analyses itself, and makes itself such as it chooses; the fruit which it bears itself enjoys- for the fruits of plants and that in animals which corresponds to fruits others enjoy- it obtains its own end, wherever the limit of life may be fixed. Not as in a dance and in a play and in such like things, where the whole action is incomplete, if anything cuts it short; but in every part and wherever it may be stopped, it makes what has been set before it full and complete, so that it can say, I have what is my own.
 And further it traverses the whole universe, and the surrounding vacuum, and surveys its form, and it extends itself into the infinity of time, and embraces and comprehends the periodical renovation of all things, and it comprehends that those who come after us will see nothing new, nor have those before us seen anything more, but in a manner he who is forty years old, if he has any understanding at all, has seen by virtue of the uniformity that prevails all things which have been and all that will be.
 This too is a
property of the rational soul, love of one's neighbour, and truth and modesty,
and to value nothing more more than itself, which is also the property
of Law. Thus then right reason differs not at all from the reason of
2. Thou wilt set little value on pleasing song and dancing and the
pancratium, if thou wilt distribute the melody of the voice into its several
sounds, and ask thyself as to each, if thou art mastered by this; for thou
wilt be prevented by shame from confessing it: and in the matter of dancing,
if at each movement and attitude thou wilt do the same; and the like also
in the matter of the pancratium. In all things, then, except virtue and
the acts of virtue, remember to apply thyself to their several parts, and
by this division to come to value them little: and apply this rule also
to thy whole life.
3. What a soul that is which is ready, if at any moment it must be
separated from the body, and ready either to be extinguished or dispersed
or continue to exist; but so that this readiness comes from a man's own
judgement, not from mere obstinacy, as with the Christians, but considerately
and with dignity and in a way to persuade another, without tragic
6.  At first tragedies were brought on the stage as means of reminding
men of the things which happen to them, and that it is according to nature
for things to happen so, and that, if you are delighted with what is shown
on the stage, you should not be troubled with that which takes place on
the larger stage. For you see that these things must be accomplished thus,
and that even they bear them who cry out "O Cithaeron." And, indeed, some
things are said well by the dramatic writers, of which kind is the following
8. A branch cut off from the adjacent branch must of necessity be
cut off from the whole tree also. So too a man when he is separated from
another man has fallen off from the whole social community. Now as to a
branch, another cuts it off, but a man by his own act separates himself
from his neighbour when he hates him and turns away from him, and he does
not know that he has at the same time cut himself off from the whole social
system. Yet he has this privilege certainly from Zeus who framed society,
for it is in our power to grow again to that which is near to us, and be
to come a part which helps to make up the whole. However, if it often happens,
this kind of separation, it makes it difficult for that which detaches
itself to be brought to unity and to be restored to its former condition.
Finally, the branch, which from the first grew together with the tree,
and has continued to have one life with it, is not like that which after
being cut off is then ingrafted, for this is something like what the gardeners
mean when they say that it grows with the rest of the tree, but that it
has not the same mind with it.
9. As those who try to stand in thy way when thou art proceeding according
to right reason, will not be able to turn thee aside from thy proper action,
so neither let them drive thee from thy benevolent feelings towards them,
but be on thy guard equally in both matters, not only in the matter of
steady judgement and action, but also in the matter of gentleness towards
those who try to hinder or otherwise trouble thee. For this also is a weakness,
to be vexed at them, as well as to be diverted from thy course of action
and to give way through fear; for both are equally deserters from their
post, the man who does it through fear, and the man who is alienated from
him who is by nature a kinsman and a friend.
10. There is no nature which is inferior to art, for the arts imitate
the nature of things. But if this is so, that nature which is the most
perfect and the most comprehensive of all natures, cannot fall short of
the skill of art. Now all arts do the inferior things for the sake of the
superior; therefore the universal nature does so too. And, indeed, hence
is the origin of justice, and in justice the other virtues have their foundation:
for justice will not be observed, if we either care for middle things (things
indifferent), or are easily deceived and careless and
11. If the things do not come to thee, the pursuits and avoidances
of which disturb thee, still in a manner thou goest to them. Let then thy
judgement about them be at rest, and they will remain quiet, and thou wilt
not be seen either pursuing or avoiding.
12. The spherical form of the soul maintains its figure, when it is
neither extended towards any object, nor contracted inwards, nor dispersed
nor sinks down, but is illuminated by light, by which it sees the truth,
the truth of all things and the truth that is in itself.
13. Suppose any man shall despise me. Let him look to that himself.
But I will look to this, that I be not discovered doing or saying anything
deserving of contempt. Shall any man hate me? Let him look to it. But I
will be mild and benevolent towards every man, and ready to show even him
his mistake, not reproachfully, nor yet as making a display of my endurance,
but nobly and honestly, like the great Phocion, unless indeed he only assumed
it. For the interior parts ought to be such, and a man ought to be seen
by the gods neither dissatisfied with anything nor complaining. For what
evil is it to thee, if thou art now doing what is agreeable to thy own
nature, and art satisfied with that which at this moment is suitable to
the nature of the universe, since thou art a human being placed at thy
post in order that what is for the common advantage may be done in some
15. How unsound and insincere is he who says, I have determined to
deal with thee in a fair way.- What art thou doing, man? There is no occasion
to give this notice. It will soon show itself by acts. The voice ought
to be plainly written on the forehead. Such as a man's character is, he
immediately shows it in his eyes, just as he who is beloved forthwith reads
everything in the eyes of lovers. The man who is honest and good ought
to be exactly like a man who smells strong, so that the bystander as soon
as he comes near him must smell whether he choose or not. But the affectation
of simplicity is like a crooked stick. Nothing is more disgraceful than
a wolfish friendship (false friendship). Avoid this most of all. The good
and simple and benevolent show all these things in the eyes, and there
is no mistaking.
16. As to living in the best way, this power is in the soul, if it
be indifferent to things which are indifferent. And it will be indifferent,
if it looks on each of these things separately and all together, and if
it remembers that not one of them produces in us an opinion about [a judgment of] itself,
nor comes to us; but these things remain immovable, and it is we ourselves
who produce the judgements about them, and, as we may say, write them in
ourselves, it being in our power not to write them, and it being in our
power, if perchance these judgements have imperceptibly got admission to
our minds, to wipe them out; and if we remember also that such attention
will only be for a short time, and then life will be at an end. Besides,
what trouble is there at all in doing this? For if these things are according
to nature, rejoice in them, and they will be easy to thee: but if contrary
to nature, seek what is conformable to thy own nature, and strive towards
this, even if it bring no reputation; for every man is allowed to seek
his own good.
18.  If any have offended against thee, consider first: What is my relation
to men, and that we are made for one another; and in another respect, I
was made to be set over them, as a ram over the flock or a bull over the
herd. But examine the matter from first principles, from this: If all things
are not mere atoms, it is nature which orders all things: if this is so,
the inferior things exist for the sake of the superior, and these for the
sake of one another.
19. There are four principal aberrations of the superior faculty against
which thou shouldst be constantly on thy guard, and when thou hast detected
them, thou shouldst wipe them out and say on each occasion thus: this thought
is not necessary: this tends to destroy social union: this which thou art
going to say comes not from the real thoughts; for thou shouldst consider
it among the most absurd of things for a man not to speak from his real
thoughts. But the fourth is when thou shalt reproach thyself for anything,
for this is an evidence of the diviner part within thee being overpowered
and yielding to the less honourable and to the perishable part, the body,
and to its gross pleasures.
20.  Thy aerial part and all the fiery parts which are mingled in thee, though by nature they have an upward tendency, still in obedience to the disposition of the universe they are overpowered here in the compound mass (the body). And also the whole of the earthy part in thee and the watery, though their tendency is downward, still are raised up and occupy a position which is not their natural one. In this manner then the elemental parts obey the universal, for when they have been fixed in any place perforce they remain there until again the universal shall sound the signal for dissolution.
 Is it not then strange that thy intelligent part only should
be disobedient and discontented with its own place? And yet no force is
imposed on it, but only those things which are conformable to its nature:
still it does not submit, but is carried in the opposite direction. For
the movement towards injustice and intemperance and to anger and grief
and fear is nothing else than the act of one who deviates from nature.
And also when the ruling faculty is discontented with anything that happens,
then too it deserts its post: for it is constituted for piety and reverence
towards the gods no less than for justice. For these qualities also are
comprehended under the generic term of contentment with the constitution
of things, and indeed they are prior to acts of justice.
21. He who has not one and always the same object in life, cannot be
one and the same all through his life. But what I have said is not enough,
unless this also is added, what this object ought to be. For as there is
not the same opinion [judgment] about all the things which in some way or other are
considered by the majority to be good, but only about some certain things,
that is, things which concern the common interest; so also ought we to
propose to ourselves an object which shall be of a common kind (social)
and political. For he who directs all his own efforts to this object, will
make all his acts alike, and thus will always be the
25. Socrates excused himself to Perdiccas for not going to him, saying,
It is because I would not perish by the worst of all ends, that is, I would
not receive a favour and then be unable to return it.
27. The Pythagoreans bid us in the morning look to the heavens that
we may be reminded of those bodies which continually do the same things
and in the same manner perform their work, and also be reminded of their
purity and nudity. For there is no veil over a star.
28. Consider what a man Socrates was when he dressed himself in a skin,
after Xanthippe had taken his cloak and gone out, and what Socrates said
to his friends who were ashamed of him and drew back from him when they
saw him dressed thus.
34. When a man kisses his child, said Epictetus, he should whisper
to himself, "To-morrow perchance thou wilt die."- But those are words of
bad omen.- "No word is a word of bad omen," said Epictetus, "which expresses
any work of nature; or if it is so, it is also a word of bad omen to speak
of the ears of corn being reaped."
37. Epictetus also said, A man must discover an art (or rules) with respect
to giving his assent; and in respect to his movements he must be careful
that they be made with regard to circumstances, that they be consistent
with social interests, that they have regard to the value of the object;
and as to sensual desire, he should altogether keep away from it; and as
to avoidance (aversion) he should not show it with respect to any of the
things which are not in our power.
39. Socrates used to say, What do you want? Souls of rational men or irrational?- Souls of rational men.- Of what rational men? Sound or unsound?- Sound.- Why then do you not seek for them?- Because we have them.- Why then do you fight and quarrel?