By Marcus Aurelius
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By Marcus Aurelius
Written 167 A.C.E.
Translated by George Long
This reflection also tends to the removal of the desire of empty fame,
that it is no longer in thy power to have lived the whole of thy life,
or at least thy life from thy youth upwards, like a philosopher; but both
to many others and to thyself it is plain that thou art far from philosophy.
Thou hast fallen into disorder then, so that it is no longer easy for thee
to get the reputation of a philosopher; and thy plan of life also opposes
it. If then thou hast truly seen where the matter lies, throw away the
thought, How thou shalt seem to others, and be content if thou shalt live
the rest of thy life in such wise as thy nature wills. Observe then what
it wills, and let nothing else distract thee; for thou hast had experience
of many wanderings without having found happiness anywhere, not in syllogisms,
nor in wealth, nor in reputation, nor in enjoyment, nor anywhere. Where
is it then? In doing what man's nature requires. How then shall a man do
this? If he has principles from which come his affects and his acts. What
principles? Those which relate to good and bad: the belief that there is
nothing good for man, which does not make him just, temperate, manly, free;
and that there is nothing bad, which does not do the contrary to what has
On the occasion of every act ask thyself, How is this with respect
to me? Shall I repent of it? A little time and I am dead, and all is gone.
What more do I seek, if what I am now doing is work of an intelligent living
being, and a social being, and one who is under the same law with
Alexander and Gaius and Pompeius, what are they in comparison with
Diogenes and Heraclitus and Socrates? For they were acquainted with things,
and their causes (forms), and their matter, and the ruling principles of
these men were the same. But as to the others, how many things had they
to care for, and to how many things were they slaves?
Consider that men will do the same things nevertheless, even though
thou shouldst burst.
This is the chief thing: Be not perturbed, for all things are according
to the nature of the universal; and in a little time thou wilt be nobody
and nowhere, like Hadrian and Augustus. In the next place having fixed
thy eyes steadily on thy business look at it, and at the same time remembering
that it is thy duty to be a good man, and what man's nature demands, do
that without turning aside; and speak as it seems to thee most just, only
let it be with a good disposition and with modesty and without
The nature of the universal has this work to do, to remove to that
place the things which are in this, to change them, to take them away hence,
and to carry them there. All things are change, yet we need not fear anything
new. All things are familiar to us; but the distribution of them still
remains the same.
Every nature is contented with itself when it goes on its way well;
and a rational nature goes on its way well, when in its thoughts it assents
to nothing false or uncertain, and when it directs its movements to social
acts only, and when it confines its desires and aversions to the things
which are in its power, and when it is satisfied with everything that is
assigned to it by the common nature. For of this common nature every particular
nature is a part, as the nature of the leaf is a part of the nature of
the plant; except that in the plant the nature of the leaf is part of a
nature which has not perception or reason, and is subject to be impeded;
but the nature of man is part of a nature which is not subject to impediments,
and is intelligent and just, since it gives to everything in equal portions
and according to its worth, times, substance, cause (form), activity, and
incident. But examine, not to discover that any one thing compared with
any other single thing is equal in all respects, but by taking all the
parts together of one thing and comparing them with all the parts together
Thou hast not leisure or ability to read. But thou hast leisure
or ability to check arrogance: thou hast leisure to be superior to pleasure
and pain: thou hast leisure to be superior to love of fame, and not to
be vexed at stupid and ungrateful people, nay even to care for
Let no man any longer hear thee finding fault with the court life
or with thy own.
Repentance is a kind of self-reproof for having neglected something
useful; but that which is good must be something useful, and the perfect
good man should look after it. But no such man would ever repent of having
refused any sensual pleasure. Pleasure then is neither good nor
This thing, what is it in itself, in its own constitution? What
is its substance and material? And what its causal nature (or form)? And
what is it doing in the world? And how long does it
When thou risest from sleep with reluctance, remember that it is
according to thy constitution and according to human nature to perform
social acts, but sleeping is common also to irrational animals. But that
which is according to each individual's nature is also more peculiarly
its own, and more suitable to its nature, and indeed also more
Constantly and, if it be possible, on the occasion of every impression
on the soul, apply to it the principles of Physic, of Ethic, and of
Whatever man thou meetest with, immediately say to thyself: What
opinions has this man about good and bad? For if with respect to pleasure
and pain and the causes of each, and with respect to fame and ignominy,
death and life, he has such and such opinions, it will seem nothing wonderful
or strange to me, if he does such and such things; and I shall bear in
mind that he is compelled to do so.
Remember that as it is a shame to be surprised if the fig-tree
produces figs, so it is to be surprised if the world produces such and
such things of which it is productive; and for the physician and the helmsman
it is a shame to be surprised, if a man has a fever, or if the wind is
Remember that to change thy opinion and to follow him who corrects
thy error is as consistent with freedom as it is to persist in thy error.
For it is thy own, the activity which is exerted according to thy own movement
and judgement, and indeed according to thy own understanding
If a thing is in thy own power, why dost thou do it? But if it
is in the power of another, whom dost thou blame? The atoms (chance) or
the gods? Both are foolish. Thou must blame nobody. For if thou canst,
correct that which is the cause; but if thou canst not do this, correct
at least the thing itself; but if thou canst not do even this, of what
use is it to thee to find fault? For nothing should be done without a
That which has died falls not out of the universe. If it stays
here, it also changes here, and is dissolved into its proper parts, which
are elements of the universe and of thyself. And these too change, and
they murmur not.
Everything exists for some end, a horse, a vine. Why dost thou
wonder? Even the sun will say, I am for some purpose, and the rest of the
gods will say the same. For what purpose then art thou? to enjoy pleasure?
See if common sense allows this.
Nature has had regard in everything no less to the end than to
the beginning and the continuance, just like the man who throws up a ball.
What good is it then for the ball to be thrown up, or harm for it to come
down, or even to have fallen? And what good is it to the bubble while it
holds together, or what harm when it is burst? The same may be said of
a light also.
Turn it (the body) inside out, and see what kind of thing it is;
and when it has grown old, what kind of thing it becomes, and when it is
Short-lived are both the praiser and the praised, and the rememberer
and the remembered: and all this in a nook of this part of the world; and
not even here do all agree, no, not any one with himself: and the whole
earth too is a point.
Attend to the matter which is before thee, whether it is an opinion
or an act or a word.
Thou sufferest this justly: for thou choosest rather to become
good to-morrow than to be good to-day.
Am I doing anything? I do it with reference to the good of mankind.
Does anything happen to me? I receive it and refer it to the gods, and
the source of all things, from which all that happens is
Such as bathing appears to thee- oil, sweat, dirt, filthy water,
all things disgusting- so is every part of life and
Lucilla saw Verus die, and then Lucilla died. Secunda saw Maximus
die, and then Secunda died. Epitynchanus saw Diotimus die, and Epitynchanus
died. Antoninus saw Faustina die, and then Antoninus died. Such is everything.
Celer saw Hadrian die, and then Celer died. And those sharp-witted men,
either seers or men inflated with pride, where are they? For instance the
sharp-witted men, Charax and Demetrius the Platonist and Eudaemon, and
any one else like them. All ephemeral, dead long ago. Some indeed have
not been remembered even for a short time, and others have become the heroes
of fables, and again others have disappeared even from fables. Remember
this then, that this little compound, thyself, must either be dissolved,
or thy poor breath must be extinguished, or be removed and placed
It is satisfaction to a man to do the proper works of a man. Now
it is a proper work of a man to be benevolent to his own kind, to despise
the movements of the senses, to form a just judgement of plausible appearances,
and to take a survey of the nature of the universe and of the things which
happen in it.
There are three relations between thee and other things: the one
to the body which surrounds thee; the second to the divine cause from which
all things come to all; and the third to those who live with
Pain is either an evil to the body- then let the body say what
it thinks of it- or to the soul; but it is in the power of the soul to
maintain its own serenity and tranquility, and not to think that pain is
an evil. For every judgement and movement and desire and aversion is within,
and no evil ascends so high.
Wipe out thy imaginations by often saying to thyself: now it is
in my power to let no badness be in this soul, nor desire nor any perturbation
at all; but looking at all things I see what is their nature, and I use
each according to its value.- Remember this power which thou hast from
Speak both in the senate and to every man, whoever he may be, appropriately,
not with any affectation: use plain discourse.
Augustus' court, wife, daughter, descendants, ancestors, sister,
Agrippa, kinsmen, intimates, friends, Areius, Maecenas, physicians and
sacrificing priests- the whole court is dead. Then turn to the rest, not
considering the death of a single man, but of a whole race, as of the Pompeii;
and that which is inscribed on the tombs- The last of his race. Then consider
what trouble those before them have had that they might leave a successor;
and then, that of necessity some one must be the last. Again here consider
the death of a whole race.
It is thy duty to order thy life well in every single act; and
if every act does its duty, as far as is possible, be content; and no one
is able to hinder thee so that each act shall not do its duty.- But something
external will stand in the way.- Nothing will stand in the way of thy acting
justly and soberly and considerately.- But perhaps some other active power
will be hindered.- Well, but by acquiescing in the hindrance and by being
content to transfer thy efforts to that which is allowed, another opportunity
of action is immediately put before thee in place of that which was hindered,
and one which will adapt itself to this ordering of which we are
Receive wealth or prosperity without arrogance; and be ready to
let it go.
If thou didst ever see a hand cut off, or a foot, or a head, lying
anywhere apart from the rest of the body, such does a man make himself,
as far as he can, who is not content with what happens, and separates himself
from others, or does anything unsocial. Suppose that thou hast detached
thyself from the natural unity- for thou wast made by nature a part, but
now thou hast cut thyself off- yet here there is this beautiful provision,
that it is in thy power again to unite thyself. God has allowed this to
no other part, after it has been separated and cut asunder, to come together
again. But consider the kindness by which he has distinguished man, for
he has put it in his power not to be separated at all from the universal;
and when he has been separated, he has allowed him to return and to be
united and to resume his place as a part.
As the nature of the universal has given to every rational being
all the other powers that it has, so we have received from it this power
also. For as the universal nature converts and fixes in its predestined
place everything which stands in the way and opposes it, and makes such
things a part of itself, so also the rational animal is able to make every
hindrance its own material, and to use it for such purposes as it may have
Do not disturb thyself by thinking of the whole of thy life. Let
not thy thoughts at once embrace all the various troubles which thou mayest
expect to befall thee: but on every occasion ask thyself, What is there
in this which is intolerable and past bearing? For thou wilt be ashamed
to confess. In the next place remember that neither the future nor the
past pains thee, but only the present. But this is reduced to a very little,
if thou only circumscribest it, and chidest thy mind, if it is unable to
hold out against even this.
Does Panthea or Pergamus now sit by the tomb of Verus? Does Chaurias
or Diotimus sit by the tomb of Hadrian? That would be ridiculous. Well,
suppose they did sit there, would the dead be conscious of it? And if the
dead were conscious, would they be pleased? And if they were pleased, would
that make them immortal? Was it not in the order of destiny that these
persons too should first become old women and old men and then die? What
then would those do after these were dead? All this is foul smell and blood
in a bag.
If thou canst see sharp, look and judge wisely, says the
In the constitution of the rational animal I see no virtue which
is opposed to justice; but I see a virtue which is opposed to love of pleasure,
and that is temperance.
If thou takest away thy opinion about that which appears to give
thee pain, thou thyself standest in perfect security.- Who is this self?-
The reason.- But I am not reason.- Be it so. Let then the reason itself
not trouble itself. But if any other part of thee suffers, let it have
its own opinion about itself.
Hindrance to the perceptions of sense is an evil to the animal
nature. Hindrance to the movements (desires) is equally an evil to the
animal nature. And something else also is equally an impediment and an
evil to the constitution of plants. So then that which is a hindrance to
the intelligence is an evil to the intelligent nature. Apply all these
things then to thyself. Does pain or sensuous pleasure affect thee? The
senses will look to that.- Has any obstacle opposed thee in thy efforts
towards an object? if indeed thou wast making this effort absolutely (unconditionally,
or without any reservation), certainly this obstacle is an evil to thee
considered as a rational animal. But if thou takest into consideration
the usual course of things, thou hast not yet been injured nor even impeded.
The things however which are proper to the understanding no other man is
used to impede, for neither fire, nor iron, nor tyrant, nor abuse, touches
it in any way. When it has been made a sphere, it continues a
It is not fit that I should give myself pain, for I have never
intentionally given pain even to another.
Different things delight different people. But it is my delight
to keep the ruling faculty sound without turning away either from any man
or from any of the things which happen to men, but looking at and receiving
all with welcome eyes and using everything according to its
See that thou secure this present time to thyself: for those who
rather pursue posthumous fame do consider that the men of after time will
be exactly such as these whom they cannot bear now; and both are mortal.
And what is it in any way to thee if these men of after time utter this
or that sound, or have this or that opinion about thee?
Take me and cast me where thou wilt; for there I shall keep my
divine part tranquil, that is, content, if it can feel and act conformably
to its proper constitution. Is this change of place sufficient reason why
my soul should be unhappy and worse than it was, depressed, expanded, shrinking,
affrighted? And what wilt thou find which is sufficient reason for
Nothing can happen to any man which is not a human accident, nor
to an ox which is not according to the nature of an ox, nor to a vine which
is not according to the nature of a vine, nor to a stone which is not proper
to a stone. If then there happens to each thing both what is usual and
natural, why shouldst thou complain? For the common nature brings nothing
which may not be borne by thee.
If thou art pained by any external thing, it is not this thing
that disturbs thee, but thy own judgement about it. And it is in thy power
to wipe out this judgement now. But if anything in thy own disposition
gives thee pain, who hinders thee from correcting thy opinion? And even
if thou art pained because thou art not doing some particular thing which
seems to thee to be right, why dost thou not rather act than complain?-
But some insuperable obstacle is in the way?- Do not be grieved then, for
the cause of its not being done depends not on thee.- But it is not worth
while to live if this cannot be done.- Take thy departure then from life
contentedly, just as he dies who is in full activity, and well pleased
too with the things which are obstacles.
Remember that the ruling faculty is invincible, when self-collected
it is satisfied with itself, if it does nothing which it does not choose
to do, even if it resist from mere obstinacy. What then will it be when
it forms a judgement about anything aided by reason and deliberately? Therefore
the mind which is free from passions is a citadel, for man has nothing
more secure to which he can fly for, refuge and for the future be inexpugnable.
He then who has not seen this is an ignorant man; but he who has seen it
and does not fly to this refuge is unhappy.
Say nothing more to thyself than what the first appearances report.
Suppose that it has been reported to thee that a certain person speaks
ill of thee. This has been reported; but that thou hast been injured, that
has not been reported. I see that my child is sick. I do see; but that
he is in danger, I do not see. Thus then always abide by the first appearances,
and add nothing thyself from within, and then nothing happens to thee.
Or rather add something, like a man who knows everything that happens in
A cucumber is bitter.- Throw it away.- There are briars in the
road.- Turn aside from them.- This is enough. Do not add, And why were
such things made in the world? For thou wilt be ridiculed by a man who
is acquainted with nature, as thou wouldst be ridiculed by a carpenter
and shoemaker if thou didst find fault because thou seest in their workshop
shavings and cuttings from the things which they make. And yet they have
places into which they can throw these shavings and cuttings, and the universal
nature has no external space; but the wondrous part of her art is that
though she has circumscribed herself, everything within her which appears
to decay and to grow old and to be useless she changes into herself, and
again makes other new things from these very same, so that she requires
neither substance from without nor wants a place into which she may cast
that which decays. She is content then with her own space, and her own
matter and her own art.
Neither in thy actions be sluggish nor in thy conversation without
method, nor wandering in thy thoughts, nor let there be in thy soul inward
contention nor external effusion, nor in life be so busy as to have no
Suppose that men kill thee, cut thee in pieces, curse thee. What
then can these things do to prevent thy mind from remaining pure, wise,
sober, just? For instance, if a man should stand by a limpid pure spring,
and curse it, the spring never ceases sending up potable water; and if
he should cast clay into it or filth, it will speedily disperse them and
wash them out, and will not be at all polluted. How then shalt thou possess
a perpetual fountain and not a mere well? By forming thyself hourly to
freedom conjoined with contentment, simplicity and modesty.
He who does not know what the world is, does not know where he
is. And he who does not know for what purpose the world exists, does not
know who he is, nor what the world is. But he who has failed in any one
of these things could not even say for what purpose he exists himself.
What then dost thou think of him who avoids or seeks the praise of those
who applaud, of men who know not either where they are or who they
Dost thou wish to be praised by a man who curses himself thrice
every hour? Wouldst thou wish to please a man who does not please himself?
Does a man please himself who repents of nearly everything that he
No longer let thy breathing only act in concert with the air which
surrounds thee, but let thy intelligence also now be in harmony with the
intelligence which embraces all things. For the intelligent power is no
less diffused in all parts and pervades all things for him who is willing
to draw it to him than the aerial power for him who is able to respire
Generally, wickedness does no harm at all to the universe; and
particularly, the wickedness of one man does no harm to another. It is
only harmful to him who has it in his power to be released from it, as
soon as he shall choose.
To my own free will the free will of my neighbour is just as indifferent
as his poor breath and flesh. For though we are made especially for the
sake of one another, still the ruling power of each of us has its own office,
for otherwise my neighbour's wickedness would be my harm, which God has
not willed in order that my unhappiness may not depend on
The sun appears to be poured down, and in all directions indeed
it is diffused, yet it is not effused. For this diffusion is extension:
Accordingly its rays are called Extensions [aktines] because they are extended
[apo tou ekteinesthai]. But one may judge what kind of a thing a ray is,
if he looks at the sun's light passing through a narrow opening into a
darkened room, for it is extended in a right line, and as it were is divided
when it meets with any solid body which stands in the way and intercepts
the air beyond; but there the light remains fixed and does not glide or
fall off. Such then ought to be the out-pouring and diffusion of the understanding,
and it should in no way be an effusion, but an extension, and it should
make no violent or impetuous collision with the obstacles which are in
its way; nor yet fall down, but be fixed and enlighten that which receives
it. For a body will deprive itself of the illumination, if it does not
He who fears death either fears the loss of sensation or a different
kind of sensation. But if thou shalt have no sensation, neither wilt thou
feel any harm; and if thou shalt acquire another kind of sensation, thou
wilt be a different kind of living being and thou wilt not cease to
Men exist for the sake of one another. Teach them then or bear
In one way an arrow moves, in another way the mind. The mind indeed,
both when it exercises caution and when it is employed about inquiry, moves
straight onward not the less, and to its object.
Enter into every man's ruling faculty; and also let every other
man enter into thine.