188: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
188: Marcus Aurelius. Meditations. Free Kindle Edition, 2014. 132 pp. ISBN 1-4995-3013-7.
- 100: Philosophy and Psychology
- 180: Ancient, medieval, and Eastern philosophies
- 188: Stoic philosophy
Marcus Aurelius was Emperor of the Roman Empire from 161 to 180 CE. Considered the last of the Five Good Emperors, he oversaw his empire with stoicism and equality. In his Meditations, written while on a military campaign in the last decade of his life, he sets forth a series of aphorisms, letters, and principles that he tried to live by. As a stoic, he thought that powerful emotions were the cause of errors in life and so sought to live a life of a more moral and intellectual manner.
The Meditations aren’t really written for an audience, and this translation is a little stilted. But what you can tell is that Marcus Aurelius is trying to reflect upon a rather interesting life. There are times when he is contented in good memories and times when the ennui of his stoic life gets to him. But the overall message is to live a good life (“Death hangs over you: while you live, and while you may, be good”) and try not to be too overly swayed by things outside of one’s control. “It is not right to vex ourselves at things,” he says, “for they care not about it.”
In the end, Marcus Aurelius’s message is both honorable and interesting. The writing takes a little getting used to, so it would behoove readers to find a good translation. It is, however, a rather good beginning look into stoicism and its effectiveness in the proper hands. Marcus Aurelius, when set against the likes of Nero and Domitian, rules in the vein of a philosopher king and tries desperately to do right by his people. All in all, a refreshing and intellectual book.