By Marcus Aurelius
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By Marcus Aurelius
Written 167 A.C.E.
Translated by George Long
All those things at which thou wishest to arrive by a circuitous road,
thou canst have now, if thou dost not refuse them to thyself. And this
means, if thou wilt take no notice of all the past, and trust the future
to providence, and direct the present only conformably to piety and justice.
Conformably to piety, that thou mayest be content with the lot which is
assigned to thee, for nature designed it for thee and thee for it. Conformably
to justice, that thou mayest always speak the truth freely and without
disguise, and do the things which are agreeable to law and according to
the worth of each. And let neither another man's wickedness hinder thee,
nor opinion nor voice, nor yet the sensations of the poor flesh which has
grown about thee; for the passive part will look to this. If then, whatever
the time may be when thou shalt be near to thy departure, neglecting everything
else thou shalt respect only thy ruling faculty and the divinity within
thee, and if thou shalt be afraid not because thou must some time cease
to live, but if thou shalt fear never to have begun to live according to
nature- then thou wilt be a man worthy of the universe which has produced
thee, and thou wilt cease to be a stranger in thy native land, and to wonder
at things which happen daily as if they were something unexpected, and
to be dependent on this or that.
God sees the minds (ruling principles) of all men bared of the
material vesture and rind and impurities. For with his intellectual part
alone he touches the intelligence only which has flowed and been derived
from himself into these bodies. And if thou also usest thyself to do this,
thou wilt rid thyself of thy much trouble. For he who regards not the poor
flesh which envelops him, surely will not trouble himself by looking after
raiment and dwelling and fame and such like externals and
The things are three of which thou art composed, a little body,
a little breath (life), intelligence. Of these the first two are thine,
so far as it is thy duty to take care of them; but the third alone is properly
thine. Therefore if thou shalt separate from thyself, that is, from thy
understanding, whatever others do or say, and whatever thou hast done or
said thyself, and whatever future things trouble thee because they may
happen, and whatever in the body which envelops thee or in the breath (life),
which is by nature associated with the body, is attached to thee independent
of thy will, and whatever the external circumfluent vortex whirls round,
so that the intellectual power exempt from the things of fate can live
pure and free by itself, doing what is just and accepting what happens
and saying the truth: if thou wilt separate, I say, from this ruling faculty
the things which are attached to it by the impressions of sense, and the
things of time to come and of time that is past, and wilt make thyself
like Empedocles' sphere,
All round, and in its joyous rest reposing; and if thou shalt strive
to live only what is really thy life, that is, the present- then thou wilt
be able to pass that portion of life which remains for thee up to the time
of thy death, free from perturbations, nobly, and obedient to thy own daemon
(to the god that is within thee).
I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more
than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of
himself than on the opinion of others. If then a god or a wise teacher
should present himself to a man and bid him to think of nothing and to
design nothing which he would not express as soon as he conceived it, he
could not endure it even for a single day. So much more respect have we
to what our neighbours shall think of us than to what we shall think of
How can it be that the gods after having arranged all things well
and benevolently for mankind, have overlooked this alone, that some men
and very good men, and men who, as we may say, have had most communion
with the divinity, and through pious acts and religious observances have
been most intimate with the divinity, when they have once died should never
exist again, but should be completely extinguished?
But if this is so, be assured that if it ought to have been otherwise,
the gods would have done it. For if it were just, it would also be possible;
and if it were according to nature, nature would have had it so. But because
it is not so, if in fact it is not so, be thou convinced that it ought
not to have been so:- for thou seest even of thyself that in this inquiry
thou art disputing with the diety; and we should not thus dispute with
the gods, unless they were most excellent and most just;- but if this is
so, they would not have allowed anything in the ordering of the universe
to be neglected unjustly and irrationally.
Practise thyself even in the things which thou despairest of accomplishing.
For even the left hand, which is ineffectual for all other things for want
of practice, holds the bridle more vigorously than the right hand; for
it has been practised in this.
Consider in what condition both in body and soul a man should be
when he is overtaken by death; and consider the shortness of life, the
boundless abyss of time past and future, the feebleness of all
Contemplate the formative principles (forms) of things bare of
their coverings; the purposes of actions; consider what pain is, what pleasure
is, and death, and fame; who is to himself the cause of his uneasiness;
how no man is hindered by another; that everything is
In the application of thy principles thou must be like the pancratiast,
not like the gladiator; for the gladiator lets fall the sword which he
uses and is killed; but the other always has his hand, and needs to do
nothing else than use it.
See what things are in themselves, dividing them into matter, form
What a power man has to do nothing except what God will approve,
and to accept all that God may give him.
With respect to that which happens conformably to nature, we ought
to blame neither gods, for they do nothing wrong either voluntarily or
involuntarily, nor men, for they do nothing wrong except involuntarily.
Consequently we should blame nobody.
How ridiculous and what a stranger he is who is surprised at anything
which happens in life.
Either there is a fatal necessity and invincible order, or a kind
Providence, or a confusion without a purpose and without a director (Book
IV). If then there is an invincible necessity, why dost thou resist? But
if there is a Providence which allows itself to be propitiated, make thyself
worthy of the help of the divinity. But if there is a confusion without
governor, be content that in such a tempest thou hast in thyself a certain
ruling intelligence. And even if the tempest carry thee away, let it carry
away the poor flesh, the poor breath, everything else; for the intelligence
at least it will not carry away.
Does the light of the lamp shine without losing its splendour until
it is extinguished; and shall the truth which is in thee and justice and
temperance be extinguished before thy death?
When a man has presented the appearance of having done wrong, say,
How then do I know if this is a wrongful act? And even if he has done wrong,
how do I know that he has not condemned himself? and so this is like tearing
his own face. Consider that he, who would not have the bad man do wrong,
is like the man who would not have the fig-tree to bear juice in the figs
and infants to cry and the horse to neigh, and whatever else must of necessity
be. For what must a man do who has such a character? If then thou art irritable,
cure this man's disposition.
If it is not right, do not do it: if it is not true, do not say
it. For let thy efforts be-
In everything always observe what the thing is which produces for
thee an appearance, and resolve it by dividing it into the formal, the
material, the purpose, and the time within which it must
Perceive at last that thou hast in thee something better and more
divine than the things which cause the various affects, and as it were
pull thee by the strings. What is there now in my mind? Is it fear, or
suspicion, or desire, or anything of the kind?
First, do nothing inconsiderately, nor without a purpose. Second,
make thy acts refer to nothing else than to a social
Consider that before long thou wilt be nobody and nowhere, nor
will any of the things exist which thou now seest, nor any of those who
are now living. For all things are formed by nature to change and be turned
and to perish in order that other things in continuous succession may
Consider that everything is opinion, and opinion is in thy power.
Take away then, when thou choosest, thy opinion, and like a mariner, who
has doubled the promontory, thou wilt find calm, everything stable, and
a waveless bay.
Any one activity whatever it may be, when it has ceased at its
proper time, suffers no evil because it has ceased; nor he who has done
this act, does he suffer any evil for this reason that the act has ceased.
In like manner then the whole which consists of all the acts, which is
our life, if it cease at its proper time, suffers no evil for this reason
that it has ceased; nor he who has terminated this series at the proper
time, has he been ill dealt with. But the proper time and the limit nature
fixes, sometimes as in old age the peculiar nature of man, but always the
universal nature, by the change of whose parts the whole universe continues
ever young and perfect. And everything which is useful to the universal
is always good and in season. Therefore the termination of life for every
man is no evil, because neither is it shameful, since it is both independent
of the will and not opposed to the general interest, but it is good, since
it is seasonable and profitable to and congruent with the universal. For
thus too he is moved by the deity who is moved in the same manner with
the deity and moved towards the same things in his mind.
These three principles thou must have in readiness. In the things
which thou doest do nothing either inconsiderately or otherwise than as
justice herself would act; but with respect to what may happen to thee
from without, consider that it happens either by chance or according to
Providence, and thou must neither blame chance nor accuse Providence. Second,
consider what every being is from the seed to the time of its receiving
a soul, and from the reception of a soul to the giving back of the same,
and of what things every being is compounded and into what things it is
resolved. Third, if thou shouldst suddenly be raised up above the earth,
and shouldst look down on human things, and observe the variety of them
how great it is, and at the same time also shouldst see at a glance how
great is the number of beings who dwell around in the air and the aether,
consider that as often as thou shouldst be raised up, thou wouldst see
the same things, sameness of form and shortness of duration. Are these
things to be proud of?
Cast away opinion: thou art saved. Who then hinders thee from casting
When thou art troubled about anything, thou hast forgotten this,
that all things happen according to the universal nature; and forgotten
this, that a man's wrongful act is nothing to thee; and further thou hast
forgotten this, that everything which happens, always happened so and will
happen so, and now happens so everywhere; forgotten this too, how close
is the kinship between a man and the whole human race, for it is a community,
not of a little blood or seed, but of intelligence. And thou hast forgotten
this too, that every man's intelligence is a god, and is an efflux of the
deity; and forgotten this, that nothing is a man's own, but that his child
and his body and his very soul came from the deity; forgotten this, that
everything is opinion; and lastly thou hast forgotten that every man lives
the present time only, and loses only this.
Constantly bring to thy recollection those who have complained
greatly about anything, those who have been most conspicuous by the greatest
fame or misfortunes or enmities or fortunes of any kind: then think where
are they all now? Smoke and ash and a tale, or not even a tale. And let
there be present to thy mind also everything of this sort, how Fabius Catullinus
lived in the country, and Lucius Lupus in his gardens, and Stertinius at
Baiae, and Tiberius at Capreae and Velius Rufus (or Rufus at Velia); and
in fine think of the eager pursuit of anything conjoined with pride; and
how worthless everything is after which men violently strain; and how much
more philosophical it is for a man in the opportunities presented to him