Review: Aurelius’s Meditations

Meditations: A New Translation
Marcus Aurelius (trans. Hays)

This is most people’s introductions to the philosophy of Stoicism — it was certainly mine. This is* the private writings of the emperor Aurelius, written in Greek, and intended as, perhaps, a set of private exhortations to himself to be better. It is comprised of a series of hundreds of short “mediations” in which Aurelius tries to cheerlead himself into living a life closer to the stoic ideals of un-attachment, rigor, and duty.


It a bit of a cliché to like this book, but I do.** Serious stoic scholars may prefer the works of one of the Greek originators of stoic thought (like Epictetus). The mediations are self-involved, and they are repetitive, and it’s a little ridiculous to read of the most powerful man in the world taking about his attempts at humble service.

But I like Marcus. Perhaps because, though I am no emperor, I am someone who thinks about the same issues, wishes to be a the same sort of person, and struggles with these things through my own repetitive, self-involved writings. If stoicism interests you, there’s probably no better place to start. Read it, and you fight against it later.


A note on editions: I’d recommend the Hays translation of the Mediations. Perhaps not the most loyal to the Greek (I wouldn’t know, I don’t read Greek) but definitely the most engaging and modern I’ve come across.

*Or at least scholars believe it to be – the degree to which we know anything about classical and great texts is limited

** Indeed, I am doing a project where I do my own idiosyncratic annotations of the work.


About seanv2

Scholar, gentleman, jock. I run the website Milo and the Calf. There you will find the Boston Qualifier Questionnaire where runners share their stories of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. You'll also find my thoughts on endurance sports, ancient history, Judaism, and hundreds of book reviews.
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One Response to Review: Aurelius’s Meditations

  1. Pingback: Review: Epictetus’s Discourses | Milo and the Calf

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