Your Occasional Stoic – Friends, Teachers, Children

From Catulus: not to spurn a friend’s criticism, even if it may be unreasonable complaint, but to try to restore his usual feelings; to speak of one’s teachers with wholehearted gratitude, as is recorded of Domitius and Athenodotus; and a genuine love from children.

-Meditations, 1.13

My notes tell me* that the Catulus who Marcus is writing about here isn’t Gaius Valerius Catullus, the poet, or Gaius Lutatius Catulus, the statesman, or Quintus Lutatius Catulus the consul.  Rather it is Cinna Catulus, a Stoic whose lectures Marcus attended.

Domitius and Athennodotus?  Scholars are not sure.  Some believe Dominitius is Gnaeus Domitius Afer who taught the rhetorician Marcus Fabius Quintilian.  Athenodotus was one of the teacher’s Fronto, another rhetorician who appears repeatedly in the Meditations.  Not much else is known about these three and frankly it hardly matters.  Like many of the mediations, the lessons here are clear cut and simple:

  1. If your friend talks shit – get over;
  2. Be nice to your teachers; and
  3. Love kids.

It’s important to remember that as far as we know, Marcus didn’t write the mediations for publication, but rather as notes to himself, to inspire himself to behave better, as a man and as a leader.  Read with that in mind, the Mediations should seem less like boring moral prescriptions from you pedantic uncle and more like reminder to ourselves of how we should behave, and how we can strive to do better.

*In compiling these quotations I am relying on two editions of the meditations that Penguin Classics edition, translated by Martin Hammond and the Modern Library edition translated by Gregory Hays.  The Hammond edition has more extensive notes; the Hays edition is the translation I prefer.

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