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The Meditations
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This eBook includes all 12 books written by Marcus Aurelius. Here is a sample from book 1: 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.

One measure, perhaps, of a book's worth, is its intergenerational pliancy: do new readers acquire it and interpret it afresh down through the ages? The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, translated and introduced by Gregory Hays, by that standard, is very worthwhile, indeed. Hays suggests that its most recent incarnation--as a self-help book--is not only valid, but may be close to the author's intent. The book, which Hays calls, fondly, a "haphazard set of notes," is indicative of the role of philosophy among the ancients in that it is "expected to provide a 'design for living.'" And it does, both aphoristically ("Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now take what's left and live it properly.") and rhetorically ("What is it in ourselves that we should prize?"). Whether these, and other entries ("Enough of this wretched, whining monkey life.") sound life-changing or like entries in a teenager's diary is up to the individual reader, as it should be. Hays's introduction, which sketches the life of Marcus Aurelius (emperor of Rome A.D. 161-180) as well as the basic tenets of stoicism, is accessible and jaunty. --H. O'Billovich

Customer Reviews:

  • Pure Wisdom
    Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

    Meditations of Marcus Aurelius are profound and timeless. The book is full of wisdom and common sense. I recommend this book highly....more info
  • 4* Read this one and avoid any inferior translations
    There's some confusion over the editorial & reviews. This edition is translated by Staniforth, and that is the one to read. Some postings suggest they are describing the Hays translation, which this is not.

    I picked up the Hays translation of this work, and phrases like 'junk' and 'if you keep putting things off' leapt out of the text. Consternation - did the Greek original actually have words like that? It was a 'modern translation - modern as in 'dumbing down'.

    So I went looking for this Staniforth translation, only 40 years old, but more faithful to the original, as in 'think of your many years of procrastination' rather than 'if you keep putting things off'. I'm sorry, but if you can't handle good English, and need the 'dumber' versions, then you're probably too dumb to appreciate the finer points of the work in the first place. Both versions were the same price, so that didn't influence my decision.

    Then you can sit back and invest your time in enjoying the thoughts & the musings of this interesting man, who although Roman, was able to make his records in Greek....more info

  • A classic for more than a thousand years
    Here was a man who had probably double the power of any modern American president and some, yet thought it was almost impossible to be a good man and a powerful/rich one. Someone (I think it was Swift but I'm probably wrong) who was described as the first pagan Christian Roman emperor. Actually I think he was just an intelligent man who, being born into politics and family turmoil, realised the shortcomings and responsibilities of being in the first family. He also needed something to confide in. I like it, I have problems agreeing with everything but sometimes I like to copy the style in evaluating my own life, who to thank, what to learn from etc....more info
  • Great Translation
    While this translation is concise and lacks the flowery writing of the George Long version which I've also bought, it remains true to the simplicity of the Stoic lifestyle and the casual writing of someone doing this only for themselves. If you want to satisfy your ego and read something with more flowers, get the George Long version or something else. If you want to understand what Aurelius means and don't care about the difficulty of a book as long as you get something out of it, I'd recommend this because it's probably more accurate in terms of tone and formality, and like another reviewer said before me, it's reads as though Aurelius were right over your shoulder giving you advice.

    While some of his theories lack sound proof, he never wrote this for anyone else to read, so he has no reason to go out of his way to prove something to himself. It's up to the reader to find the proof, or refute what he says. It's a very interesting, easily understandable read that comes of as some sort of ancient self-help book. It's advice for living a decent life in a complicated and confusing society, with a limit on your existence in this world. Personally, I'd recommend buying both of the versions I mentioned (you can actually find some george long versions free online) because Hays tends to simplify a lot, but you can pretty much get the same understanding from this easier read version....more info
  • A Glimpse into Roman Philosophy
    Marcus Aurelius' "Meditations" is a celebrated work composed by one of Imperial Rome's most celebrated leaders. While at times a bit challenging to get through, the most impressive quality of the work is its classic endurance. Partly a collection of life-lessons and partly a discourse on the psychology of mankind and government, Meditations is as insightful today as it was in ancient Rome. Overall, an impressive intellectual piece and a good edition to any well-stocked private library. ...more info
  • I bet even Marcus Aurelius would like this translation.
    "And you can also commit an injustice by doing nothing." -- Marcus Aurelius, from Meditations

    My sister loves this book, but I was never able to get into it until I found this translation. Marcus Aurelius wrote this for his own usage - it was never intended for publication, much less being seen by others. It was something he was writing in uncertain times, and it's an intimate view of a man searching for peace and self-mastery.

    This grace and immediacy did not come across well in previous, more formal-sounding translations which seemed to imply that Marcus Aurelius was handing down maxims to a large crowd. Hays' new translation lets us get closer to the author, and also gain a deeper understanding of how badly Marcus needed this for his own sanity, and in turn, how much modern life needs his thoughts on being a decent person in an indecent world.

    I heard about a subway mugging (apologies - I can't remember where I read this, but it was within the past 3 years) in which a young man intervened, injuring himself in the process and becoming hospitalized. When asked why he inserted himself into a situation which he could have easily avoided, he quoted from this book. Just go and read this. It certainly invited me to consider a more wide-ranging perspective and a greater awareness of the daily thoughts that distract us, and the possibility of thinking nobler, more solid thoughts. ...more info
  • "A man's life is what his thoughts make of it." --Aurelius
    I have two translations of this book--one by Andy Fiala, and the the other by Gregory Hays. Hays' is far superior, and comes through very clear. I found it surprising how much different translations were and would highly recommend juxtaposing different versions before making any purchase.

    Most of the reviews below did a wonderful job describing the book already, so I feel no need to; but will add that Marcus Aurelius was a great and virtuous Roman emperor who could of had it all but instead demonstrated the beauty in living simply with self-discipline, self-mastery, and self-control....more info
  • Timeless meditations.
    Live each day as if it were your last, for life is but a fleeting instant. All things deteriorate and vanish into oblivion. Do not be distracted by the interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness of your neighbors. Rather, allow yourself a quiet space away from their folly. Do not be swept off your feet by passing fads, and do not let others' opinions dictate your own. Look at things in their true light. Like Seneca in the 1st century AD and Epictetus in the 1st and 2nd centuries, Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius (Antoninus) (121-180) was a philosopher of the Stoic school. Although he never refers to himself a Stoic, often quoting from Epictetus's DISCOURSES, Marcus Aurelius reveals his Stoic influences by emphasizing the importance of self-sufficiency and equanimity in the face of adversity, and through his belief that virtue is attainable only by living in harmony with nature. Marcus Aurelius's reputation as a philosopher is derived solely from MEDITATIONS, a collection of the thoughts and ideas he kept in a personal journal during his campaigns, perhaps written as a philosophical exercise (called "askesis") designed to transform his behavior, his character, and ultimately his way of life. Although he may not rank with Plato or Aristotle as an ancient philosopher, in his MEDITATIONS, Marcus Aurelius does offer us a design for living our lives with timeless wisdom. (It should be noted that this review refers to the 2005 Penguin Great Ideas edition of MEDITATIONS, translated by Maxwell Staniforth.)

    G. Merritt ...more info
  • Ignorance need not apply
    Marcus Aurelius is the epitamy of the old wise man. His isite into life are deep and profound making complete sense though there is none to be had. It is amazing followers of his thoughts and teachings are not more prominant....more info
  • Best translation of this classic
    This is my favorite translation of the meditations, an opinion further solidified yesterday when I went to the book store to get a last-minute graduation gift for a young man, and all they had was "The Emperor's Handbook" by the Hicks brothers. It was good, but I think it lacked the manliness and concise clarity of the Hays translation. I have not read the original Greek, (trying to learn some now!), so I'm no authority, but I imagine this is how a man like Marcus Aurelius might write to himself in this circumstance.

    As for the greatness of the original work itself, all I can add to the other fine reviews here are two quotes I have always loved from Clifton Fadiman's "The Lifetime Reading Plan":

    ". . . during the last ten years of his life, by the light of a campfire, resting by the remote Danube after a wearisome day of marching or battle, he set down in Greek his Meditations, addressed only to himself but by good fortune now the property of us all," and, "Through the years The Golden Book of Marcus Aurelius, as it has been called, has been read by vast numbers of men and women. They have thought of it not as a classic but as a well spring of consolation and inspiration. It is one of the few books that seem to have helped men directly and immediately to live better, to bear with greater dignity and fortitude the burden of being merely human. Aristotle one studies. Marcus Aurelius men take to their hearts."...more info

  • A Timeless Reading
    Although this book is the only translation that I have read on Marcus Aurelius's Mediations and do not have another example for comparison, this particular book has been a favorite and read many times. Meditations is a timeless record of Stoic philosophy, not a religion as many people have misconceived; and therefore, this philosophy has historically received acceptance, and even, embracement. With the heart of a warrior and the wisdom of a great leader, Aurelius shares how to weather the most difficult times, with grace and compassion. His advice is practical and readers will identify with him on the common problems experienced by humans, and from his wisdom, learn how to apply his suggestions to our own times. The introduction defines the Stoic Philosophy and devotes a brief section to the role that it played when the early Christian Church was formed. Similiar to the Book of Proverbs style, it is possible to read one item every day for reflection. This book is small enough to easily carry, and yet, the content is worth every penny of the book cost....more info
  • Emperor of Rome and himself
    If you think you cannot have at the same time a complicated job and
    peace of spirit, if you think your job is too demanding, if you think
    your house is a chaos that inevitably makes your nerves explode...if
    you think some of that, then you should read Marcus Aurelius
    Meditations. He was for twenty years emperor of one of the largest
    empires that have ever existed, dealing with intrigues, Rome, wars
    at the borders....and he was also a master of himself, living in calm,
    austerity, integrity. The book is a collection of thoughts,
    reflections, whose central message is that what is really important is
    the tranquility of the self and not all the vanities or worries of the
    daily life. Marcus Aurelius teaches how to "Be firm as the rock
    against which the waves of the sea come and go".
    ...more info
  • Wisdom from the Emperor-Philosopher
    "Your mind will be like its habitual thoughts; for the soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts. Soak it then in such trains of thoughts as, for example: Where life is possible at all, a right life is possible." ~ Marcus Aurelius from "Meditations"

    Not only is Marcus Aurelius one of my heroes, he's also one of history's leading Stoic Philosophers. Stoic philosophy. You know, one of the classic Hellenistic philosophies--right there with Epicureanism and Cynicism.

    Huh?

    Whether or not you've heard of Stoicism, you've probably met one of its leading thinkers: Marcus Aurelius--he's the old emperor in the movie "Gladiator." :)

    Quick historical context:

    It was in the 2nd Century, during battles against Barbarian tribes in the Danube region near Hungary (not unlike the opening scene of "Gladiator"), when Aurelius wrote "Meditations."

    Imagine the powerful Roman Empire: encompassing vast territory from England to Spain and Africa, to Egypt, Arabia and Turkey. This is the Empire that Marcus Aurelius defended from barbarians and pestilence and plague at every border. Now, you can imagine Aurelius, the Emperor of this vast empire, trained in the Stoic philosophy, reminding himself to live the philosophy during some of the most trying times of his rule--in the battlefields of war.

    Interestingly, the literal translation of the title is "To Himself"--as Aurelius was simply jotting notes to himself in his private journal. His intention was not to publish anything; rather, he used his journal to remind himself of the lessons he learned as a young nobleman being groomed to one-day rule the empire. The book is broken down into bite-size nuggets of wisdom that you can enjoy a few minutes at a time. I highly recommend you start enjoying!...more info
  • A really great read!
    Meditations (Penguin Classics)

    I absolutely loved this book! It was a great read, and felt very personal, as if I were listening to Marcus Aurelius's thoughts. I am using it as a part of my teenage son's home-schooling studies, and even he is getting into it. Great book! Highly recommend, whether for leisure reading, home-school studies, or for some brain exercise! This would be wonderful on a long flight, long train ride, etc. ...more info
  • Meditations (Modern Library Classics)
    It seems to be a solid translation. You are going to need to spend a lot of time thinking about it....more info
  • Not a literal translation!!!
    Not a literal translation, but a conjecture of what Hays believes Marcus Aurelius should have said, albeit arranged in modern English. For a more accurate and idiomatic translation accompanied by the Greek manuscript printed beside it, see "Marcus Aurelius" edited and translated by C.R. Haines, and published by Loeb Classical Library. As long as you are willing to overlook some archaic language employed here, such as "thou" and "thy," you would not find a more faithful translation than this. ...more info
  • Excellent edition of Marcus Aurelius
    This translation of Meditations by Maxwell Staniforth (this is not the Gregory Hays translation that a lot of people are reviewing) is the best I've read. It reads clearly and simply, with no useless ornamentation to the text. Indeed, what I like about the Great Ideas series that this is a part of is its lack of extras--forewords and introductions and the like which, though often helpful, are usually written by people other than the author and sometimes set the reader up to completely misinterpret what they are about to read. This copy of Marcus Aurelius is only Marcus Aurelius, with perhaps a dozen or so explanatory footnotes sprinkled throughout.
    The book itself is well-known, content-wise. The titular meditations are bite-sized thoughts written down by Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius during his later years, as he reflected on his past while campaigning in the north. He was one of the greatest and most famous stoics who ever lived, and this book encapsulates his personal philosophy and manner of thought. His ideas are at once brilliant, challenging, and soothing, making this book good down-time reading and an excellent gift for a friend. I've read it several times, finding something new and moving every time.
    This is a very good edition of Meditations to have. The text is completely intact--not a selection--and the translation is clear and precise, but never boring. Maxwell Staniforth has done us all a great service with this translation of the last good emperor's journals.
    Highly recommended....more info
  • Profound!
    I bought this a couple of years ago and my copy is full of markings and is getting quite ragged now!

    I never find a situation upon which this wise man did not speak. Very nice work!

    I do know a fair bit of Greek but I have still enjoyed Prof. Hays' translation. I'd recommend a copy to every young graduate you know!...more info
  • Code of the warrior
    In Marcus Aurelius we find the roots of chivalry for the warrior code. A classic work for anyone interested in history or military history in particular. Stoic philosophy for all but especially the warrior in us all. ...more info
  • Perfect....
    This book is great. I have the old Harvard Classics translation and it doesn't even start to compare with this version. It's like a knife to a sword. A portable-fit-in-your-back-pocket-wake-your-soul-up sword.

    Buy it. Carry it. Learn from it. ...more info
  • Profound!
    I bought this a couple of years ago and my copy is full of markings and is getting quite ragged now!

    I never find a situation upon which this wise man did not speak. Very nice work!

    I do know a fair bit of Greek but I have still enjoyed Prof. Hays' translation. I'd recommend a copy to every young graduate you know!...more info
  • Lessons of life from one of Rome's greatest emperors
    Marcus Aurelius, philosopher-king of Rome for two decades, preserved his experiences not for posterity but likely for himself. A reminder of things past forming a deeply personal philosophy to guide the future. Solidly founded in Stoicism yet borrowing from cynicism, epicureanism and platonic thought the "Meditations" is a unique man's thoughts and experiences. Hardly original it is nonetheless, potent and applicable.

    The main themes of the book can be summed up:

    Experience as much as you can and interpret these experiences as honestly as you can.
    Do what you can with what you have been given.
    Do not fret over that which you cannot control..accept it.

    Some of my favorite quotes:

    Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now take what's left and live it properly.

    Doctors keep their scalpels and other instruments handy, for emergencies. Keep your philosophy ready too-ready to understand heaven and earth. In everything you do, even the smallest thing, remember the chain that links them. Nothing early succeeds by ignoring heaven, nothing heavenly by ignoring the earth.

    ...more info
  • The Hays translation: interesting and readable.
    Those turned off by older translations of "Meditations" containing all the "thys" and "thous" (as I was) need wait no longer....Gregory Hays has saved the day.

    This is an excellent and very readable version of the ancient Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius' personal notebooks and musings, and it can be extremely valuable to the inner seeker.

    Personal responsiblity in every aspect of life is emphasized, as is the acceptance of death and the position that we are free to leave this Earth whenever we choose (a very heavy viewpoint for some). Much has been made of the "bleak" worldview of Marcus, but in my opinion, it's not bleak to see things as they are, just....realistic.

    I highly recommend this book to all who want to learn to look within (and without) in a more effective way....more info
  • Timeless advice ...
    "Meditations" is a series of short writings by Marcus Aurelius, a Roman Emperor during the 2nd century, setting forth his ideas on Stoic philosophy. Stoic philosophy has been popular with the Roman intellectual elites; it is likely that Aurelius had been tutored by Epictetus.

    Marcus Aurelius was not an original thinker or a leader in the development of Stoic thought, and "The Meditations" are a series of quotations, varying in length from one sentence to long paragraphs. The original was written in Greek while Aurelius was campaigning sometime 170 and 180. Aurelius was in his late 50s and early 60s by then, and the notes summarize a lifetime of experiences, emotions, and thoughts. Meditations are collection of these short thoughts, brief ideas and quiet contemplations helping Aurelius in guidance and self-improvement.

    The core point of Stoicism is the denial of emotion, a skill which, Marcus Aurelius says, will free a man from the pains and pleasures of the material world. Aurelius often mentions the need to focus at the moment, to look for the beauty of the moment, and to seek the meaning of the moment. He seeks to strip out the extraneous influences on existence by just pointing towards the important part of our lives: being.
    Quite a Buddhist idea, in itself. Aurelius claims that the only way a man can be harmed by others is to allow his reaction to overpower him. If you have a Zen Buddhist bent, reading Meditations will likely reveal the intellectual and spiritual similarities between these two different groups of thoughts. ...more info
  • Emperor of Rome and himself
    If you think you cannot have at the same time a complicated job and
    peace of spirit, if you think your job is too demanding, if you think
    your house is a chaos that inevitably makes your nerves explode...if
    you think some of that, then you should read Marcus Aurelius
    Meditations. He was for twenty years emperor of one of the largest
    empires that have ever existed, dealing with intrigues, Rome, wars
    at the borders....and he was also a master of himself, living in calm,
    austerity, integrity. The book is a collection of thoughts,
    reflections, whose central message is that what is really important is
    the tranquility of the self and not all the vanities or worries of the
    daily life. Marcus Aurelius teaches how to "Be firm as the rock
    against which the waves of the sea come and go".
    ...more info
  • Incredibly Rewarding
    Many people are disappointed with Stoicism, calling it emotionally narrow and unsatisfying. Indeed, it seems ridiculous to us now, when kissing our mother or spouse so say to ourselves "I am only kissing a human being", so if those people die, we will not be attached to them, and therefore feel no loss. This is what Epictetus, the man through whose Discourses Marcus Aurelius learned the principles of Stoicism, advised one to do in his Handbook.

    That being said, I feel that there are few works that have ever been more rewarding for me to read. The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius are amazing on two levels. The first is that of a philosophical doctrine, the level on which it is usually considered. The Meditations can be seen as sort of a run-on of the Epictetian brand of Stoicism, which is different in many aspects from early Greek Stoicism. If one (for the most part) likes what Epictetus has to say in the Handbook, but doesn't really feel like sitting through the Discourses, Marcus Aurelius is a nice alternative.

    The second level is that of a personal struggle. Most people don't admit it, but the reason that Marcus Aurelius stays with the reader more than Epictetus does is because in Marcus Aurelius the reader sees a man with an enormous amount of power in his hands wrestling with himself, trying not only to do his job correctly, but live correctly as well.

    The Meditations are very intimate, and could be considered a sort of philosophical diary, but for some reason, they never really get this treatment from readers.

    I would recommend this not only to students of philosophy, but to students of Roman history and political science as well. How many times in history do we have a written account of what it takes to be a good emperor? Most of all, however, I would recommend this to anyone struggling to find inner peace, not that I'm suggesting that it should be taken in a dogmatic manner, but at the very least, a troubled mind will find a companion in Marcus Aurelius.

    As for the translation, I have not seen another that even comes close. This book is worth every cent of the price and much much more.
    ...more info
  • The Hays translation: interesting and readable.
    Those turned off by older translations of "Meditations" containing all the "thys" and "thous" (as I was) need wait no longer....Gregory Hays has saved the day.

    This is an excellent and very readable version of the ancient Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius' personal notebooks and musings, and it can be extremely valuable to the inner seeker.

    Personal responsiblity in every aspect of life is emphasized, as is the acceptance of death and the position that we are free to leave this Earth whenever we choose (a very heavy viewpoint for some). Much has been made of the "bleak" worldview of Marcus, but in my opinion, it's not bleak to see things as they are, just....realistic.

    I highly recommend this book to all who want to learn to look within (and without) in a more effective way....more info