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106 of 107 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a superlative translation
Other reviewers here have commented about the work itself, so I would just add a note about this specific translation.

One of the most difficult tasks for a reader interested in non-English language work (and works from classical times in particular) is to choose an appropriate translation. Of course, what counts as `appropriate' is somewhat subjective...
Published on August 25, 2010 by garwood

versus
0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Small and cheap-looking
I guess I got what I paid for because it wasn't expensive. Type in the book was sort of blah and it was a smaller book than I thought. Pretty skinny. But still, in good shape, and most important part is what's IN the book, which I enjoyed. I wouldn't spend to much for it, but it's a nice read.
Published 17 months ago by Meg


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106 of 107 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a superlative translation, August 25, 2010
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Other reviewers here have commented about the work itself, so I would just add a note about this specific translation.

One of the most difficult tasks for a reader interested in non-English language work (and works from classical times in particular) is to choose an appropriate translation. Of course, what counts as `appropriate' is somewhat subjective.

What I was looking for was a translation that is clear and accurate; one that manages to convey something of a feeling for the both the person who wrote, and the times they wrote in. In this Staniforth excels.

Unlike say, the Benjamin Jowett translation of Plato which (at least to my ears) has a distinctly Victorian ring, or the popular new age paraphrases of many of the Stoics (and in truth they are paraphrases or adaptations rather than translations), to me Staniforth (whose translation dates from 1964) strikes just the right balance.

The words of Marcus Aurelius are rendered intelligibly and with a dignity and awareness of the historical context. The reader is neither forced to re-read and ponder (i.e., speculatively re-translate), nor wince at inappropriate colloquialisms of 21st century English. Better still, one can immediately perceive and appreciate the times in which the work was written. No mean accomplishment, to say the least.

Of course, each reader needs to make this judgment for themselves. Amazon provides an excellent (and free) way of doing this with its `search inside this book' feature, which is enormously useful for anyone making this decision.
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49 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ancient wisdom, still true, January 22, 2009
I don't read a lot of philosophy. I'm not sure why, since philosophy is really the province of the Liberal Arts graduate, and that's what I am. Even worse, I was a political science major, and pol-sci is really just applied philosophy. You ask yourself questions like, "What is man's obligation to man?" and "How can a society best benefit everyone involved in it?" and the next thing you know it's three in the morning and you're on your twelfth cup of Denny's coffee.

Arguing the meaning of life in a diner, however, isn't considered to be "real" philosophy. Philosophy these says means making up your own lexicon, creating words to describe concepts that you have spun out of the rhetorical ether - or, in philosophical terminology, "just made up." So you get phrases in modern philosophy that go on for pages and pages, and have so many recursive clauses that you wind up having to go back to the beginning just to figure out where you left off.

So, if you're like me - and it's not impossible that you are - and you don't feel like delving into the murkiest depths of intellectual waters, I can solidly recommend Marcus Aurelius' immortal Meditations. There is no beginning, there is no end - you can open up the book anywhere, read for a while, and then put it down.

Written back in the 2nd century, Meditations is a collection of Marcus' thoughts on life, existence, and how to be a good and moral man. Some of those observations are long, a page or two, but most of them are just a few lines. It's kind of as though Marcus was hanging out at his camp in Carnuntum and he had a Thought. "Pen!" he would yell, "and paper!" He'd scribble his idea down and put it away to be filed away later. Whether he had any great plans for this collection of ideas, we'll never know. He was an Emperor, of course, and it's pretty normal for Emperors to want to make themselves look brilliant in history. But, as you read the book, you realize that Marcus' mind wasn't on history. Why bother, he'd say. It'll all be the same in a thousand years anyway.

Death is ever-present in this text. When you start to worry about whether you're living up to the example set by your ancestors, don't bother - they're dead and gone, and they couldn't care less about who you have become. Are you always concerned with what people will think of you after you die? Why worry about it? You'll be dead, for one thing, and beyond caring, and in any case whatever you have accomplished will be gone when the last person who remembers you is himself dead.

Marcus is very clear in his views on death: it's part of nature, part of the ceaseless change which controls everything in this world. We came into this world, built from the atoms and essences of the dead who had gone before us, and one day we will return to that ceaselessly changing sea of Nature. Our lives are mere moments when measured against the vastness of eternity, and our powers are meaningless against those of the gods and the world that gave birth to us. "Remember that Man lives only in the present, in this fleeting instant,' he said. "All the rest of his life's either past and gone, or not yet revealed."

In this way, there are some definite parallels between Marcus' Stoic philosophy and Zen philosophy, though they're centuries apart. Both Zen and Stoicism emphasize living in the present moment - not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. The only time in which you really exist is right now, and so it should be your only concern. Don't let other people's opinions of you govern your feelings - you can't control them, you shouldn't expect to be able to. You can, however, control yourself. "Will anyone sneer at me?" he asks. "That will be his concern; mine will be to ensure that nothing I do or say shall deserve the sneer."

Yes, this book is very quotable.

Where Stoicism and Zen would probably part ways is on Marcus' reliance on Reason as a supreme governing power. He maintains that a man's reason is the only thing that he can truly claim as his own, and that it should be ready at hand at all times. In any situation, presented with any person or object, the first thing that a person should do is turn his reason upon it. Figure out what it is, at its root, and once you know that, everything else will become clear.

I'm a big fan of Reason. We're humans, and we're bound to believe stupid things from time to time, but we're also possessed of some very clever brains, and an excellent ability to turn those brains on to solving problems. But far too few people actually use those brains. We allow our passions to override our reason and end up doing stupid things to ourselves and each other. As hard as it may be, I'm with Marcus on this one - without reason, we're not really humans. At best, we're children, at worst we're beasts. It is our duty to the world to understand it, without illusion or self-deception.

Frankly, I think Marcus would be very disappointed at how little progress we've made on this regard. I mean, it's been nearly two thousand years, after all, plenty of time to deal with our superstitions and our illusions. On the other hand, I think he'd be flattered that his words had lasted so long and had influenced so many people.

It's a great text, one that calls from the past to remind us of some very important truths - that we are here, now, and we are each in control of our own lives. We are possessed with a limitless ability to understand our universe, and to not use that reason is to waste the best part of ourselves.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Roman Emperor's book of wisdom, January 20, 2008
This book will give you the rare opportunity to read a book of wisdom written by a Roman Emperor. Marcus Aurelius was a well liked emperor you lived from 120 A.D. to 180 A.D. ruling in the late part of his life. The book's theme is to live your life in balance with the universe. Do your duty and fulfill the role the "Gods" put you on earth to do. Let reason be your master always doing what is beneficial to all. Do not sin because you only sin against yourself. Why worry about correcting others behaviors when you have so much uncompleted work to do on yourself. If you enjoy reading Plato, Epictetus, or philosophy in general I know you will enjoy reading this book, it is truly packed with wisdom and will take you back to Roman times and let you see how the wise among them thought before the dark ages and modern religion came on the stage of civilization. Very interesting read.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the context is death, March 3, 2012
The key is death. Forgetting this is what makes life an illusion.

Lie down, close your eyes and try to die. Feel the body giving up and drifting away, gather the strength to focus, not to pass out, to stay alert so you can preserve yourself.
Maintain control in the face of the most elemental fear with an irrevocable determination to fight till the very end and not to succumb to nature. With the death of the body the significance of time becomes minimal - you're still perceiving it but you know it'll be gone, too. You realize that your life was nothing and that you got it all wrong.

You were dead and now you have the chance to live.

You remember only the small things now. The smallest things you missed; you realize how and where you screwed up. You realize: it was all about control. The control you need now to gather the power to survive this trauma. The rest was just a setting: parents, lovers, enemies, religion, kids, career, home; sogar dein Auto!

If only you had been aware of this!

You realize that this is your last chance to control your destiny. Not to forget! Not to let the experience overwhelm you, not to let it put you to sleep.
You understand: if you identify with what you experience, you are lost. To preserve yourself you must dominate your experience! You! Your mind screams: this is not me!!! Whatever you see and feel: this is not me!

You have always been alone!

And you remember the small details: the conflicts, the love, the hate, the anger, the pride, the shame, the guilt, the lies; ...and the fear! That sneaky fear that remained under your radar but you always felt and that you let yourself get used to; all the instances when you forgot, fell asleep and let yourself be used by thoughts and emotions that you never owned.

You were owned!

You have been weak and stupid. You just didn't know!!! The question of control never even came up. Your whole life was a void and now you see that it amounted to nothing. Only now that it's gone it has become clear: this moment is the point. This moment has always been the point from the very beginning. What will you do? What can you do?

Are you going to fall asleep now or triumph?

Nobody really understands the greatest minds without this vantage point. Without experiencing this ultimate struggle, everything is just an abstraction, an illusion.

Marcus Aurelius starts his thoughts by taking stock of what he learned from whom. Taking stock of the "small things" where control and balance must be exercised:

Taking the time; thinking before speaking; not to speak unnecessarily; being considerate; not to get angry because of small things; not to be judgmental; not to daydream; not to be passionate; not to succumb to fame and fortune; how to receive compliments and criticism on an even keel; acting in accordance with one's own nature; not to identify with others, not to be concerned with what others think, understanding and appreciating differences and many other things that require you to use all your powers to preserve yourself, just like on your death bed when it becomes clear what the stakes are.

The greatest lives and the greatest works all exude an intimate aura of death.

This vantage point is what turns mundane activities into rituals and this is what makes the differentiated man. NOT the 80/20 rule, not the ability to introduce balanced scorecards, not the brand message (God forbid: personal band), not executive education programs, celebrity coaches or books by Steve Jobs or Jack Welsh, not a dedication to perfection in product development, not the value investing "philosophy", not anything in the business domain: these are just settings.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Wisdom of an Emperor Philosopher, April 17, 2008
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After being a fan of Epictetus for a few years, I decided I wanted to expand my Stoic philosopher experiences. I chose to read Marcus Aurelius' "Meditations," and quickly discovered that this classic book has many different versions. In all honesty, I am not sure that I picked the best version.

While I certainly felt that this version was a good read, I would be hard-pressed to call "Meditations" a `classic' just based on this version. I struggled to give this version a 4-star rating, but did so out of the overall value of the thoughts and wisdom of Marcus Aurelius. If you want to read a true Stoic's personal insights on and observations of life, death, integrity, goodness, and happiness, then you cannot go wrong with this version of "Meditations."

What I did not like about this book was that I found it very wordy and repetitive. From the perspective of being a man's personal recollections, it may have been a very accurate and literal translation, but from a reader's perspective, I would have much preferred a more coherent and organized collection of Marcus Aurelius' maxims and musings. Out of respect for the accomplishments and reputation of Marcus Aurelius, I am compelled to read other versions of "Meditations" to see which version I like best.
(This review is about a previous "Penguin Classics" version translated by Maxwell Staniforth)
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent edition of Marcus Aurelius, June 13, 2006
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Jordan M. Poss (South Carolina, United States) - See all my reviews
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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.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 2000 year old wisdom at your fingertips, September 25, 2009
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J. Marsden (Mainer in exile) - See all my reviews
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I couldn't help chuckling and nodding my head continually while reading Marcus' Meditations. His thoughts and life principles can be seen as repetitious through out Meditations (the books within it pretty much cover the same territory over and over, but actually cement his views firmly within your mind)yet they will give you great pause and reflection upon your own life.

I can't think of any better primer for living in today's crazed, money-obsessed, celebrity-driven and unbelievably shallow world. He is a Stoic by definition, of course, but the man really knew the world and Man all too well and he would find no surprise in the opinionated, self-righteous nature of the 21st century. It's a short book, but is best read slowly and savored intellectually.

I couldn't help but feel that all the Tony Robbins, Eckhard Tolles, Wayne Dyers, Deepok Chopras and Dr's Phils of our silly world pale next to his simple, yet solid principles and to some degree their books are derivitive of Aurelius' work. Highly recommended!

I never reread books - there are too many wanting my time, but I will do so with this one. In truth it's a startling honest and insightful book of how to run your life and should be stuck in your backpack or suitcase for those times when you lose your patience with people, grow disillusioned and world-weary, or just want to travel back through time and communicate with a man that actually ran the entire Western World for a while, a man who took never took himself or the trappings of the world all that seriously.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect...., January 27, 2006
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.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Crisp and clean., April 26, 2013
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The Meditations, per se, are without equal. The translation is crisp and clean as is the physical printing and appearance. Everyone should have a copy of Meditations in their personal library and this example is excellent.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 2nd Century Thoughts in Today's Language, August 23, 2013
By 
F. McGavran (Cincinnati, Ohio) - See all my reviews
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This is the Maxwell Staniforth translation, now nearly 50 years old but far smoother and readable than the Long translation in most of Amazon.com's editions. Long makes the Emperor sound like a pompous Victorian; Staniforth presents him as an introspective English gentleman. Unfortunately, Staniforth's Introduction and Translator's Note are omitted. Marcus Aurelius' dedication to reason and society are refreshing and moving in an age when neither is much valued, and his ruminations about God, life, impending death and how best to face them are calming and comforting. Given today's op ed atmosphere of raging intemperance and megalomania, we may have to retreat to the 2nd century to learn how to address frustration, bad behavior, and conflict with the gentleness inspired by knowing we are all in this together.
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Meditations
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (Paperback - March 22, 2012)
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