By Marcus Aurelius
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By Marcus Aurelius
Written 167 A.C.E.
Translated by George Long
What is badness? It is that which thou hast often seen. And on the occasion
of everything which happens keep this in mind, that it is that which thou
hast often seen. Everywhere up and down thou wilt find the same things,
with which the old histories are filled, those of the middle ages and those
of our own day; with which cities and houses are filled now. There is nothing
new: all things are both familiar and short-lived.
How can our principles become dead, unless the impressions (thoughts)
which correspond to them are extinguished? But it is in thy power continuously
to fan these thoughts into a flame. I can have that opinion about anything,
which I ought to have. If I can, why am I disturbed? The things which are
external to my mind have no relation at all to my mind.- Let this be the
state of thy affects, and thou standest erect. To recover thy life is in
thy power. Look at things again as thou didst use to look at them; for
in this consists the recovery of thy life.
The idle business of show, plays on the stage, flocks of sheep,
herds, exercises with spears, a bone cast to little dogs, a bit of bread
into fish-ponds, labourings of ants and burden-carrying, runnings about
of frightened little mice, puppets pulled by strings- all alike. It is
thy duty then in the midst of such things to show good humour and not a
proud air; to understand however that every man is worth just so much as
the things are worth about which he busies himself.
In discourse thou must attend to what is said, and in every movement
thou must observe what is doing. And in the one thou shouldst see immediately
to what end it refers, but in the other watch carefully what is the thing
Is my understanding sufficient for this or not? If it is sufficient,
I use it for the work as an instrument given by the universal nature. But
if it is not sufficient, then either I retire from the work and give way
to him who is able to do it better, unless there be some reason why I ought
not to do so; or I do it as well as I can, taking to help me the man who
with the aid of my ruling principle can do what is now fit and useful for
the general good. For whatsoever either by myself or with another I can
do, ought to be directed to this only, to that which is useful and well
suited to society.
How many after being celebrated by fame have been given up to oblivion;
and how many who have celebrated the fame of others have long been
Be not ashamed to be helped; for it is thy business to do thy duty
like a soldier in the assault on a town. How then, if being lame thou canst
not mount up on the battlements alone, but with the help of another it
Let not future things disturb thee, for thou wilt come to them,
if it shall be necessary, having with thee the same reason which now thou
usest for present things.
All things are implicated with one another, and the bond is holy;
and there is hardly anything unconnected with any other thing. For things
have been co-ordinated, and they combine to form the same universe (order).
For there is one universe made up of all things, and one God who pervades
all things, and one substance, and one law, one common reason in all intelligent
animals, and one truth; if indeed there is also one perfection for all
animals which are of the same stock and participate in the same
Everything material soon disappears in the substance of the whole;
and everything formal (causal) is very soon taken back into the universal
reason; and the memory of everything is very soon overwhelmed in
To the rational animal the same act is according to nature and
according to reason.
Be thou erect, or be made erect.
Just as it is with the members in those bodies which are united in
one, so it is with rational beings which exist separate, for they have
been constituted for one co-operation. And the perception of this will
be more apparent to thee, if thou often sayest to thyself that I am a member
(melos) of the system of rational beings. But if (using the letter r) thou
sayest that thou art a part (meros) thou dost not yet love men from thy
heart; beneficence does not yet delight thee for its own sake; thou still
doest it barely as a thing of propriety, and not yet as doing good to
Let there fall externally what will on the parts which can feel
the effects of this fall. For those parts which have felt will complain,
if they choose. But I, unless I think that what has happened is an evil,
am not injured. And it is in my power not to think so.
Whatever any one does or says, I must be good, just as if the gold,
or the emerald, or the purple were always saying this, Whatever any one
does or says, I must be emerald and keep my colour.
The ruling faculty does not disturb itself; I mean, does not frighten
itself or cause itself pain. But if any one else can frighten or pain it,
let him do so. For the faculty itself will not by its own opinion turn
itself into such ways. Let the body itself take care, if it can, that is
suffer nothing, and let it speak, if it suffers. But the soul itself, that
which is subject to fear, to pain, which has completely the power of forming
an opinion about these things, will suffer nothing, for it will never deviate
into such a judgement. The leading principle in itself wants nothing, unless
it makes a want for itself; and therefore it is both free from perturbation
and unimpeded, if it does not disturb and impede itself.
Eudaemonia (happiness) is a good daemon, or a good thing. What
then art thou doing here, O imagination? Go away, I entreat thee by the
gods, as thou didst come, for I want thee not. But thou art come according
to thy old fashion. I am not angry with thee: only go
Is any man afraid of change? Why what can take place without change?
What then is more pleasing or more suitable to the universal nature? And
canst thou take a bath unless the wood undergoes a change? And canst thou
be nourished, unless the food undergoes a change? And can anything else
that is useful be accomplished without change? Dost thou not see then that
for thyself also to change is just the same, and equally necessary for
the universal nature?
Through the universal substance as through a furious torrent all
bodies are carried, being by their nature united with and cooperating with
the whole, as the parts of our body with one another. How many a Chrysippus,
how many a Socrates, how many an Epictetus has time already swallowed up?
And let the same thought occur to thee with reference to every man and
One thing only troubles me, lest I should do something which the
constitution of man does not allow, or in the way which it does not allow,
or what it does not allow now.
Near is thy forgetfulness of all things; and near the forgetfulness
of thee by all.
It is peculiar to man to love even those who do wrong. And this
happens, if when they do wrong it occurs to thee that they are kinsmen,
and that they do wrong through ignorance and unintentionally, and that
soon both of you will die; and above all, that the wrong-doer has done
thee no harm, for he has not made thy ruling faculty worse than it was
The universal nature out of the universal substance, as if it were
wax, now moulds a horse, and when it has broken this up, it uses the material
for a tree, then for a man, then for something else; and each of these
things subsists for a very short time. But it is no hardship for the vessel
to be broken up, just as there was none in its being fastened
A scowling look is altogether unnatural; when it is often assumed,
the result is that all comeliness dies away, and at last is so completely
extinguished that it cannot be again lighted up at all. Try to conclude
from this very fact that it is contrary to reason. For if even the perception
of doing wrong shall depart, what reason is there for living any
Nature which governs the whole will soon change all things which
thou seest, and out of their substance will make other things, and again
other things from the substance of them, in order that the world may be
When a man has done thee any wrong, immediately consider with what
opinion about good or evil he has done wrong. For when thou hast seen this,
thou wilt pity him, and wilt neither wonder nor be angry. For either thou
thyself thinkest the same thing to be good that he does or another thing
of the same kind. It is thy duty then to pardon him. But if thou dost not
think such things to be good or evil, thou wilt more readily be well disposed
to him who is in error.
Think not so much of what thou hast not as of what thou hast: but
of the things which thou hast select the best, and then reflect how eagerly
they would have been sought, if thou hadst them not. At the same time however
take care that thou dost not through being so pleased with them accustom
thyself to overvalue them, so as to be disturbed if ever thou shouldst
not have them.
Retire into thyself. The rational principle which rules has this
nature, that it is content with itself when it does what is just, and so
Wipe out the imagination. Stop the pulling of the strings. Confine
thyself to the present. Understand well what happens either to thee or
to another. Divide and distribute every object into the causal (formal)
and the material. Think of thy last hour. Let the wrong which is done by
a man stay there where the wrong was done.
Direct thy attention to what is said. Let thy understanding enter
into the things that are doing and the things which do
Adorn thyself with simplicity and modesty and with indifference
towards the things which lie between virtue and vice. Love mankind. Follow
God. The poet says that Law rules all.- And it is enough to remember that
Law rules all.
About death: Whether it is a dispersion, or a resolution into atoms,
or annihilation, it is either extinction or change.
About pain: The pain which is intolerable carries us off; but that
which lasts a long time is tolerable; and the mind maintains its own tranquility
by retiring into itself, and the ruling faculty is not made worse. But
the parts which are harmed by pain, let them, if they can, give their opinion
About fame: Look at the minds of those who seek fame, observe what
they are, and what kind of things they avoid, and what kind of things they
pursue. And consider that as the heaps of sand piled on one another hide
the former sands, so in life the events which go before are soon covered
by those which come after.
From Plato: The man who has an elevated mind and takes a view of
all time and of all substance, dost thou suppose it possible for him to
think that human life is anything great? it is not possible, he said.-
Such a man then will think that death also is no evil.- Certainly
From Antisthenes: It is royal to do good and to be
It is a base thing for the countenance to be obedient and to regulate
and compose itself as the mind commands, and for the mind not to be regulated
and composed by itself.
It is not right to vex ourselves at things,
For they care nought about it.
To the immortal gods and us give joy.
Life must be reaped like the ripe ears of corn:
One man is born; another dies.
If gods care not for me and for my children,
There is a reason for it.
For the good is with me, and the just.
No joining others in their wailing, no violent
From Plato: But I would make this man a sufficient answer, which
is this: Thou sayest not well, if thou thinkest that a man who is good
for anything at all ought to compute the hazard of life or death, and should
not rather look to this only in all that he does, whether he is doing what
is just or unjust, and the works of a good or a bad
For thus it is, men of Athens, in truth: wherever a man has placed
himself thinking it the best place for him, or has been placed by a commander,
there in my opinion he ought to stay and to abide the hazard, taking nothing
into the reckoning, either death or anything else, before the baseness
of deserting his post.
But, my good friend, reflect whether that which is noble and good
is not something different from saving and being saved; for as to a man
living such or such a time, at least one who is really a man, consider
if this is not a thing to be dismissed from the thoughts: and there must
be no love of life: but as to these matters a man must intrust them to
the deity and believe what the women say, that no man can escape his destiny,
the next inquiry being how he may best live the time that he has to
Look round at the courses of the stars, as if thou wert going along
with them; and constantly consider the changes of the elements into one
another; for such thoughts purge away the filth of the terrene
This is a fine saying of Plato: That he who is discoursing about
men should look also at earthly things as if he viewed them from some higher
place; should look at them in their assemblies, armies, agricultural labours,
marriages, treaties, births, deaths, noise of the courts of justice, desert
places, various nations of barbarians, feasts, lamentations, markets, a
mixture of all things and an orderly combination of
Consider the past; such great changes of political supremacies.
Thou mayest foresee also the things which will be. For they will certainly
be of like form, and it is not possible that they should deviate from the
order of the things which take place now: accordingly to have contemplated
human life for forty years is the same as to have contemplated it for ten
thousand years. For what more wilt thou see?
That which has grown from the earth to the earth,
But that which has sprung from heavenly seed,
Back to the heavenly realms returns. This is either a dissolution of
the mutual involution of the atoms, or a similar dispersion of the unsentient
With food and drinks and cunning magic arts
Turning the channel's course to 'scape from death.
The breeze which heaven has sent
We must endure, and toil without complaining.
Another may be more expert in casting his opponent; but he is not
more social, nor more modest, nor better disciplined to meet all that happens,
nor more considerate with respect to the faults of his
Where any work can be done conformably to the reason which is common
to gods and men, there we have nothing to fear: for where we are able to
get profit by means of the activity which is successful and proceeds according
to our constitution, there no harm is to be suspected.
Everywhere and at all times it is in thy power piously to acquiesce
in thy present condition, and to behave justly to those who are about thee,
and to exert thy skill upon thy present thoughts, that nothing shall steal
into them without being well examined.
Do not look around thee to discover other men's ruling principles,
but look straight to this, to what nature leads thee, both the universal
nature through the things which happen to thee, and thy own nature through
the acts which must be done by thee. But every being ought to do that which
is according to its constitution; and all other things have been constituted
for the sake of rational beings, just as among irrational things the inferior
for the sake of the superior, but the rational for the sake of one
The prime principle then in man's constitution is the social. And
the second is not to yield to the persuasions of the body, for it is the
peculiar office of the rational and intelligent motion to circumscribe
itself, and never to be overpowered either by the motion of the senses
or of the appetites, for both are animal; but the intelligent motion claims
superiority and does not permit itself to be overpowered by the others.
And with good reason, for it is formed by nature to use all of them. The
third thing in the rational constitution is freedom from error and from
deception. Let then the ruling principle holding fast to these things go
straight on, and it has what is its own.
Consider thyself to be dead, and to have completed thy life up
to the present time; and live according to nature the remainder which is
Love that only which happens to thee and is spun with the thread
of thy destiny. For what is more suitable?
In everything which happens keep before thy eyes those to whom
the same things happened, and how they were vexed, and treated them as
strange things, and found fault with them: and now where are they? Nowhere.
Why then dost thou too choose to act in the same way? And why dost thou
not leave these agitations which are foreign to nature, to those who cause
them and those who are moved by them? And why art thou not altogether intent
upon the right way of making use of the things which happen to thee? For
then thou wilt use them well, and they will be a material for thee to work
on. Only attend to thyself, and resolve to be a good man in every act which
thou doest: and remember...
Look within. Within is the fountain of good, and it will ever bubble
up, if thou wilt ever dig.
The body ought to be compact, and to show no irregularity either
in motion or attitude. For what the mind shows in the face by maintaining
in it the expression of intelligence and propriety, that ought to be required
also in the whole body. But all of these things should be observed without
The art of life is more like the wrestler's art than the dancer's,
in respect of this, that it should stand ready and firm to meet onsets
which are sudden and unexpected.
Constantly observe who those are whose approbation thou wishest
to have, and what ruling principles they possess. For then thou wilt neither
blame those who offend involuntarily, nor wilt thou want their approbation,
if thou lookest to the sources of their opinions and
Every soul, the philosopher says, is involuntarily deprived of
truth; consequently in the same way it is deprived of justice and temperance
and benevolence and everything of the kind. It is most necessary to bear
this constantly in mind, for thus thou wilt be more gentle towards
In every pain let this thought be present, that there is no dishonour
in it, nor does it make the governing intelligence worse, for it does not
damage the intelligence either so far as the intelligence is rational or
so far as it is social. Indeed in the case of most pains let this remark
of Epicurus aid thee, that pain is neither intolerable nor everlasting,
if thou bearest in mind that it has its limits, and if thou addest nothing
to it in imagination: and remember this too, that we do not perceive that
many things which are disagreeable to us are the same as pain, such as
excessive drowsiness, and the being scorched by heat, and the having no
appetite. When then thou art discontented about any of these things, say
to thyself, that thou art yielding to pain.
Take care not to feel towards the inhuman, as they feel towards
How do we know if Telauges was not superior in character to Socrates?
For it is not enough that Socrates died a more noble death, and disputed
more skilfully with the sophists, and passed the night in the cold with
more endurance, and that when he was bid to arrest Leon of Salamis, he
considered it more noble to refuse, and that he walked in a swaggering
way in the streets- though as to this fact one may have great doubts if
it was true. But we ought to inquire, what kind of a soul it was that Socrates
possessed, and if he was able to be content with being just towards men
and pious towards the gods, neither idly vexed on account of men's villainy,
nor yet making himself a slave to any man's ignorance, nor receiving as
strange anything that fell to his share out of the universal, nor enduring
it as intolerable, nor allowing his understanding to sympathize with the
affects of the miserable flesh.
Nature has not so mingled the intelligence with the composition
of the body, as not to have allowed thee the power of circumscribing thyself
and of bringing under subjection to thyself all that is thy own; for it
is very possible to be a divine man and to be recognised as such by no
one. Always bear this in mind; and another thing too, that very little
indeed is necessary for living a happy life. And because thou hast despaired
of becoming a dialectician and skilled in the knowledge of nature, do not
for this reason renounce the hope of being both free and modest and social
and obedient to God.
It is in thy power to live free from all compulsion in the greatest
tranquility of mind, even if all the world cry out against thee as much
as they choose, and even if wild beasts tear in pieces the members of this
kneaded matter which has grown around thee. For what hinders the mind in
the midst of all this from maintaining itself in tranquility and in a just
judgement of all surrounding things and in a ready use of the objects which
are presented to it, so that the judgement may say to the thing which falls
under its observation: This thou art in substance (reality), though in
men's opinion thou mayest appear to be of a different kind; and the use
shall say to that which falls under the hand: Thou art the thing that I
was seeking; for to me that which presents itself is always a material
for virtue both rational and political, and in a word, for the exercise
of art, which belongs to man or God. For everything which happens has a
relationship either to God or man, and is neither new nor difficult to
handle, but usual and apt matter to work on.
The perfection of moral character consists in this, in passing
every day as the last, and in being neither violently excited nor torpid
nor playing the hypocrite.
The gods who are immortal are not vexed because during so long
a time they must tolerate continually men such as they are and so many
of them bad; and besides this, they also take care of them in all ways.
But thou, who art destined to end so soon, art thou wearied of enduring
the bad, and this too when thou art one of them?
It is a ridiculous thing for a man not to fly from his own badness,
which is indeed possible, but to fly from other men's badness, which is
Whatever the rational and political (social) faculty finds to be
neither intelligent nor social, it properly judges to be inferior to
When thou hast done a good act and another has received it, why
dost thou look for a third thing besides these, as fools do, either to
have the reputation of having done a good act or to obtain a
No man is tired of receiving what is useful. But it is useful to
act according to nature. Do not then be tired of receiving what is useful
by doing it to others.
The nature of the An moved to make the universe. But now either
everything that takes place comes by way of consequence or continuity;
or even the chief things towards which the ruling power of the universe
directs its own movement are governed by no rational principle. If this
is remembered it will make thee more tranquil in many