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Meditations (Penguin Classics) Paperback – October 31, 2006

54 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0140449334 ISBN-10: 0140449337

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Here, for our age, is [Marcus’s] great work presented in its entirety, strongly introduced and freshly, elegantly translated.” —Robert Fagles

About the Author

Marcus Aelius Aurelius Antoninus (121-180 CE) was adopted by the emperor Antoninus Pius and succeeded him in 161, (as joint emperor with adoptive brother Lucius Verus). The last of the so-called Five Good Emperors, he ruled alone from 169.  Presiding over a changing Rome, he spent much of his reign in putting down variou rebellions. Today, he is best-know for his Meditations, a series of reflections, strongly influenced by Epictetus, which cemented his place as one of the greatest Stoic Philosophers. He died in 180 and was succeed by his natural son, thus ending the period of the adoptive emperors.

Diskin Clay is Professor Emeritus of Classical Studies at Duke University and has published widely in the area of Ancient Greek Philosophy.

Martin Hammond was Head Master of Tonbridge School and has translated many works of classic literature, including Homer's Iliad for Penguin Classics.
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (October 31, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140449337
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140449334
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,858 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

81 of 86 people found the following review helpful By D. Edmunds on November 5, 2006
Format: Paperback
Amazon has not done a good job sorting out the various editions and translations of Marcus Aurelius' Meditations. As a result, comments with many stars actually may be referring to an entirely different translation. Likewise, hardbound references don't match up with the paperback versions. I'd recommend that you find a copy somewhere and look at the text yourself before you order.
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72 of 80 people found the following review helpful By James on July 13, 2007
Format: Paperback
I was excited to order the penguin classic as I now live in Japan and had left my prior copy in NY. However, I am not quite so happy with this new translation as I find it diluted for the masses and less meaningful. Though Marcus Aurelius offers great wisdom the new translation offers the stoic cliches stated so colloquially that we've heard them all before. Meditations are statements to be slowly chewed, savored and deeply thought about; while I feel the current translation offers Aurelius in a more ambiguous, predigested and less flavorful form. However, I'm a bit particular! A prior reviewer found this helpful in that it was easier to read.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on March 26, 2008
Format: Paperback
I reread Marcus Aurelius' Meditations every five years or so, and each time I do I'm struck by the sheer pathos of the book. Here's the most powerful man in the world (of his day), the emperor Marcus Aurelius, absolute sovereign of the western world, a ruler who held the power of life and death over millions of subjects, and moreover a man steeped in philosophy and wisdom traditions--who confronts his own mortality and realizes that even he must die. The Meditations is Marcus' soul-searching, occasionally disingenuous, usually calm but sometimes panicky panicky effort to come to grips with that sobering fact. If life is ephemeral, even for the world's most powerful man, how should that life be lived?

It's this intensely human need to figure out what life is about before the inevitable night closes in that makes Marcus' journals so intensely interesting and valuable to the rest of us. His answers, coming from the philosophical tradition of Stoicism, aren't for everyone. My guess is that readers with a few years on them will find stoicism more attractive than younger readers who are full of oats and hormones. Marcus argues that that a happy life is one lived in accordance with nature; that living in accordance with nature means cultivating a "just" or rational mind and virtuous behavior that accord with the rationality of creation; that humans are interconnected both with nature and one another, such that no person who tries to deny the connection can live happily or healthily; and that human freedom and happiness is proportionate to the cultivation of apatheia or indifference to those matters over which we have no control (very much like the wisdom expressed in the Buddha's Four Noble Truths).

Ultimately, each person must face death alone, as best he or she can. But if Marcus's Meditations offer much food for thought, not only about the mortality which we all carry but also about the good life for which we all yearn.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By greg taylor VINE VOICE on July 26, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What makes Meditations an important book is that it provides the opportunity to discuss what it is to be human, to have a soul, to live a good life with one of the most remarkable men in history.
Before I get to that I want to second a suggestion made by several reviewers. Use two or more translations when you read the Meditations. I like this Penguin Classics edition. The introduction by Diskin Clay is useful, the translation by Martin Hammond is mostly accurate and his explanatory notes are very useful. There are some solid suggestions for further reading and several useful indices (of Names, of Quotations, and a General Index).
My one qualm about the translation is that Hammond sometimes makes the book sound a little Christian. Hammond will use "sin" where other translators (like Farquharson or Frances Hutchinson) would use "impiety" or "harm". This is decidedly not a Christian text. There is nothing in Marcus Aurelius (MA) of final judgment. There is no reward or punishment for our actions in this life. MA suspends judgments on all sorts of issues. It is clear that he believes in gods and occasionally talks about God (see 12.2). But he also mentions many times the alternative belief that all is chance and that death will be followed by oblivion. It is essential to his ethics however that death is not followed by any sort of hell.
Also worth thinking about is whether MA is a man whose philosophy is to be rejected (or, at least, radically modified) because it ultimately makes one less human. With MA, everything is to be thought through with the corrosive that is reason. We must not let our attachments cause us to lose sight of the truth.
We may kiss our children good night but we must remind ourselves as we are doing so that they could be dead tomorrow (11.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Damian Kelleher on November 21, 2007
Format: Paperback
In Plato's Republic, Socrates discusses the possibility of a philosopher king; that is, a person who would rule in a way that is just, because their thoughts and desires are outgrowths of their philosophical ideologies. Socrates suggests that this would be the best of all possible rulers - and, of course, the implication is that Plato would be this greatest ruler, because the philosophy a ruler 'should' follow, was Plato's. Marcus Aurelius was Emperor of Rome from 161 A.D. until his death in 180 A.D. He was the last of the five great Emperors who ruled Rome during a period which Edward Gibbon, writing his magnificent The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, described as the time when the world was at its happiest and most prosperous. He was not, as far as anyone else knew, a philosopher - he was simply (and sufficiently) a proficient Emperor, an able ruler, a good statesmen. And yet, in those quiet moments of leisure when he was able to take off the mantle of Emperor, Marcus Aurelius composed some of the most important works of Stoic philosophy. A series of meditations, exercises for himself, admonitions to himself, exhortations of how to be a better person.

What is immediately clear about Aurelius' Meditations is that they were written for an intimate audience of one. There is no grandstanding or pompous declarations of power or influence. There are no revelations or secrets or negative comments about current affairs. Whatever Marcus Aurelius' thoughts on the world outside himself, we are left mostly in the dark for this work. Rather, what he has done - or aims to do - is to intimately examine himself, to highlight his flaws and to recognise, but not always praise, his positive qualities.
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