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Meditations: A New Translation (Modern Library)

109 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0679642602
ISBN-10: 0679642609
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Editorial Reviews Review

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


“The emperor Marcus Aurelius, the proverbial philosopher-king, produced in Greek a Roman manual of piety, the Meditations, whose impact has been felt for ages since. Here, for our age, is his great work presented in its entirety, strongly introduced and freshly, elegantly translated by Gregory Hays for the Modern Library.”
—Robert Fagles
If you buy a new print edition of this book (or purchased one in the past), you can buy the Kindle edition for only $1.99 (Save 80%). Print edition purchase must be sold by Amazon. Learn more.

Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library (May 14, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679642609
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679642602
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,715 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

884 of 894 people found the following review helpful By The Don Wood Files on December 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover
One should have more than one translation for Meditations. Note this difference between Maxwell Staniforth's translation in 1964 (Penguin Classics) and Hay's 2002 translation in these two passages.
1964: When force of circumstance upsets your equanimity, lose no time in recovering your self-control, and do not remain out-of-tune longer than you can help. Habitual recurrence to the harmony will increase your mastery of it.
2002: When jarred, unavoidably, by circumstances, revert at once to yourself, and don't lose the rhythm more than you can help. You'll have a better grasp of the harmony if you keep going back to it.
1964: Adapt yourself to the environment in which your life has been cast, and show true love to the fellow-mortals with whom destiny has surrounded you.
2002: The things ordained for you - teach yourself to be at one with those. And the people who share them with you - treat them with love. With real love.
The 1964 version is regal, while the 2002 (Hays') version is Aurelius writing, quickly, in a spiral notebook while on horseback, the equivalent of "memo to myself."
Reading this book is like taking a cold shower, or visiting a favorite bartender, who insists on serving you coffee, not drink. Hays has brought us a Marcus Aurelius who puts his hand on your shoulder, looks you in the eye, and tells you like it is: Get over yourself. You can't change the world. Do your best and realize you are of this earth. Human experience is muddy, so what? This book is best read in tough times, when you could use a little steel in your spine.
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57 of 62 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 17, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Here is a great book of meditations for both believers and atheists. Marcus Aurelius was emperor of Rome with an unfaithful wife, a worthless son, and the duties of leading an army for 13 years in what is now Germany. Trying to cheer and console himself in the middle of a desolate area, he wrote down what he remembered of the Stoic philosophy which he had studied. His thoughts are inspiring and provoking. This is the book you want with you when life becomes tough. As Marcus' view of god is a pantheistic one, anyone can profit from his thoughts, whether atheist or believer. A book to read ever few years. Highly recommended.
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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful By calmly on October 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Let facts and common sense be your guide:

1. View yourself as a part, and only a part, of nature.
2. Accept your fate without complaining. Don't waste time judging.
3. Don't be surprised that there are offensive people.
4. Accept that things change, including your body. So accept that you will die.
5. Things repeat: a life of 40 years may see as much as one of 1000 years.
6. While you're worrying about death, your mind may go. Make the best of it while it's intact.
7. Some stress is normal. You may be surprised how much you can endure, especially if you realize its for the best that you do so.
8. We weren't born to feel great, we were born to help others.
9. Why value that which can't offer you security?

That's a little of what I understood Marcus Aurelius to be advising. A sober naturalism, without the comfort of gods or the tease of enlightenment. Between Aurelius and the translator, Gregory Hays, it comes across clear enough that at time I was surprised that this ancient Roman could be speaking so intimately to me.
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57 of 68 people found the following review helpful By capcall on April 9, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
This is not the excellent Modern Library edition translated and with a detailed Introduction by Gregory Hays. I wish this were available on Kindle. But this is definitely not as advertised!
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In the introduction to his translation of the "Meditations" Gregory Hays observes that "[I]t has been a generation since [The Meditations'] last English incarnation." Hays further explains that he has attempted to present a readable, modern translation of Marcus' great work which strill captures the "patchwork character of the original." I find that Hays's translation succeeds. He translates Marcus's reflections into a colloquial, frequently earthy, English in unstitled language and idiom that will be familiar to a modern reader. I think the translation is as well faithful to Marcus's thought. The reflective, meditative character of the paragraphs come through well, as does the difficulty of the text in many places. This is a book that will encourage the modern reader to approach Marcus -- an altogether commendable result.
Professor Hays has written an excellent introduction to his translation which can be read with benefit by those coming to the "Meditations" for the first time and by those familiar with the work. There is a brief discussion of Marcus's life, his philosophical studies, and his tenure as emperor of Rome (161-180 A.D.) Hays spends more time on the philosophical background of Marcus's thought emphasizing ancient stoicism and of the philosophy of Heraclitus. He discusses the concept of "logos", a critical term for Marcus and for later thought, and argues that logos -- or the common reason that pervades man and the universe -- is as much a process as it is a substance. This is difficult, but insightful.
Hays obviously has a great love for Marcus's book and has thought about it well. He is able to offer critical observations which will help the reader focus in studying the Meditations.
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