Meditations: with selected correspondence (Oxford World's Classics) 1st Edition
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About the Author
Robin Hard has also translated the work of Stoic philosopher Epictetus. Christopher Gill is Professor of Ancient Thought at the University of Exeter.
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If you are apt to reading philosophy, profound books that give you insight into the universe and your place in it, I cannot think of any greater book than the Meditations. Marcus Aurelius has been called Plato's philosopher-king, and though I disagree with this, I see the point: he ruled the Roman Empire near its greatest extent with the virtues of fundamental stoicism. He did not want or consent to Plato's Republic, but he put his duties, his loved ones, and his country before his own interests. He rejected luxury and comfort. He wrote to remind himself to lead by example, that he is the master of himself, that emotions cannot puppeteer him, and that pleasures cannot warp his logic and his will to do good. He reminded himself to always be favorable to all that came by him, even those that disagreed with him and spoke ill of him, for he believed they were brought to the earth to work together. He rejected unreasonable condemnation and unhelpful criticism as well as praise and arrogant pride. He looked to correct, not condemn, the ignorant, and stand agreeable and thankful, not prideful and bashful, when corrected. He praised the universe for her inner-workings, borrowing from Plato's idea that all that is natural must in turn be good, if not for the individual, then for the whole, which then must still be good for the individual regardless. His metaphysics are not scientifically sound, the same for Plato, a large influence, but they do tap into the imagination.
He ponders most on death. Death is natural, and all that comes from nature must be good, therefore death is good. He reminds himself to never fear death as he would never fear breathing, or his eyes never fear seeing, or his hands ever fear writing. Death is a product of life, as sight is a product of the eyes, and writing all product of the hands, all natural consequences of being. What is there to fear? Nothing. What is there to be angry about? Nothing. When irritated, whose fault is it? Yours, for allowing exterior happenings you cannot control affect your inner peace.
My favorite part of the entire book is when he ponders on inner peace. Many would seek peace retiring to a calm village, a seaside home, or in the mountains far from the busy cities. Marcus argues he who has not inner peace in himself wherever, will never have inner peace whatever. Surroundings matter not, only your attitude. This is the biggest lesson of the Meditations, the greatest wisdom Marcus has to offer: it is your reaction to life, not life itself, that creates happiness. This was the principle Nelson Mandela stuck to when he was imprisoned. This is the principal that is the core of stoicism.
"You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength."
Pick up this book. It would be unfortunate going through life, pondering how to bring yourself happiness, when the secret to happiness was found 2,000 years ago. You do not have to accept all Marcus says, I do not agree with him on all things. But his wisdom is invaluable.
Of my grandfather Verus I have learned to be gentle and meek, and to refrain from all anger and passion. From the fame and memory of him that begot me I have learned both shamefastness and manlike behaviour. Of my mother I have learned to be religious, and bountiful; and to forbear, not only to do, but to intend any evil; to content myself with a spare diet, and to fly all such excess as is incidental to great wealth. Of my great-grandfather, both to frequent public schools and auditories, and to get me good and able teachers at home; and that I ought not to think much, if upon such occasions, I were at excessive charges.
George Long's version:
From my grandfather Verus I learned good morals and the government of my temper. From the reputation and remembrance of my father, modesty and a manly character. From my mother, piety and beneficence, and abstinence, not only from evil deeds, but even from evil thoughts; and further, simplicity in my way of living, far removed from the habits of the rich. From my great-grandfather, not to have frequented public schools, and to have had good teachers at home, and to know that on such things a man should spend liberally.
Having said this however, it's still worth comparing both translations which are free on the Kindle.
Top international reviews
"MARCUS AURELIUS ANTONINUS turned into born on April 26, A.D. 121. His actual name was M. Annius Verus, and he changed into sprung of a noble own family which claimed decent from Numa, 2nd King of Rome."
I was also surprised at the many references to Marcus Aurelius's many web pages:
"on the very first web page of his book..."
This collection of sublime thoughts compiled as a book (originally titled as "Eis Heauton", meaning: "To Himself"; original language was Greek) has never gone out of print since circa AD 161. The writer, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, was a Roman emperor and the most renowned stoic philosopher of antiquity. My review though is not about the book itself but about the various available translations of the book.
There are three noted translations which are most readily available in market:
1. A. S. L. Farquharson's Everyman's Library hardcover edition.
2. Martin Hammond's Penguin Classics edition.
3. Gregory Hays' Modern Library edition.
The first one is the most revered edition published in 1944. Though the physical appearance of this edition is the most eye-catching with an elegantly produced hardcover binding and handsome printing, the translation seems dated and old-fashioned. If you want to exhibit your book collection in front of people, you may buy this edition. Though for reading pleasure and better understanding of the philosophy, I'll not recommend it.
The second edition by Penguin (2006) is better than the Farquharson's as far as readability is concerned, but avoid this one too. This translation is more inclined to the exactness of the original text than the readability or understandability of the writing. As it seems, this is the bestselling edition of "Meditations" as far as the Amazon's Indian website is concerned. Thanks to the Penguin Classics tag attached to it, perhaps. No matter what, this is NOT the best edition in comparison.
The last edition which is by Hays (2002), in my opinion (and as per the general consensus as well), is the best edition available. This is the most comprehensible translation of "Meditations" for the modern readers. The language is fluid and contemporary. If you want to study the thoughts of Aurelius more profoundly then get this Gregory Hays edition, paperback published by Modern Library (snapshots attached).
" ... MARCUS AURELIUS ANTONINUS become born on April 26, AD 121. His actual name changed into M. Annius Verus , and he changed into sprung of a noble own family which Claimed descent from Numa, 2d King of Rome. Thus the maximum spiritual of emperors Got right here of the blood of the maximum pious of early kings. His father, Annius Verrus, had held excessive office in Rome, and his grandfather, of the identical call, were thrice Consul..."
My first reaction was "WTF?"... it appears like it was machine translated and not edited at all. Later it gets worse:
"His body changed into knowledgeable to hardihood through way of wrestling, searching, and outside video video video video games; and no matter the truth that his charter have become susceptible, he confirmed superb personal courage to encounter the fiercest boars. At the same time he changed into stored from the extravagancies of his day. The tremendous delight in Rome end up the strife of the Factions, as they have been known as, inside the circus. The racing drivers used to undertake clearly one in every of 4 shades—pink, blue, white, or green—and their partisans confirmed an eagerness in helping them which no longer some element can also furthermore additionally want to surpass."
"... outside video video video video games" (?!?!?) Seriously?
So, it's basically unreadable. No idea how this was translated, or by who, but it's clearly not what I thought I was buying. No faith that the actual meditations which follow have been faithfully translated, and I've requesting a refund.
Best avoid this one and pick a version from a reputable source.
As far as being "able to change your mindset" is concerned, I believe that the ideas written here can influence the outlook on many aspects of one's life, especially if they are already thinking along similar lines.
If you are interested in learning about Stoicism, this is a great place to start.