A leading translation of Stoic philosophy in wise and practical aphorisms that have inspired Bill Clinton, Ryan Holiday, Anna Kendrick and many more.Written in Greek by an intellectual Roman emperor without any intention of publication, the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius offer a wide range of fascinating spiritual reflections and exercises developed as the leader struggled to understand himself and make sense of the universe. Spanning from doubt and despair to conviction and exaltation, they cover such diverse topics as the question of virtue, human rationality, the nature of the gods and the values of leadership. But while the Meditations were composed to provide personal consolation, in developing his beliefs Marcus also created one of the greatest of all works of philosophy: a series of wise and practical aphorisms that have been consulted and admired by statesmen, thinkers and ordinary readers for almost two thousand years.To provide a full understanding of Aurelius’s seminal work, this edition includes explanatory notes, a general index, an index of quotations, an index of names, and an introduction by Diskin Clay putting the work in its biographical, historical, and literary context, a chronology of Marcus Aurelius’s life and career.For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
October 31, 2006
File Size: 32 MB
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Language: English, Francais, Italiano, Espanol, Deutsch, chinese
I bought three translations of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations: Martin Hammond (Penguin Classics), Robin Hard (Oxford World’s Classics), and Gregory Hays (Modern Library). Each has its merits, but I like Hammond’s the best. What I particularly like about the Hammond edition, besides the piquant and muscular translation itself, are his erudite endnotes. These notes serve as a sort of concordance (tracing themes and threads running throughout the meditations) and commentary. Unlike others, Hammond isn’t afraid to take the occasional critical eye toward the emperor: he notes Marcus’ difficulties maintaining compassion and forbearance toward his fellow human beings, his contradictions, his indulgences, his obsessions, his very human hypocrisies and shortcomings. At the same time, Hammond avoid vulgar cynicism and doesn’t shy away from expressing admiration for Marcus’ many moments of poetic beauty, eloquence, and humility.What emerges is not the lionized “philosopher king” (ala Plato’s Republic), the idealized paragon of Stoic virtue he has become in the public imagination (I like to call this reductionist version of Stoicism “Bro-icism”), but rather a human being struggling everyday to apply rigorous philosophical injunctions to his wayward, often frustratingly recalcitrant humanity and to use that philosophy to assuage his anxieties about public life and the inevitability of death. The Meditations are a rare document, thus, because it preserves the candid struggles of a fallible human being to apply a school of philosophy to his life, rather than the perfected rhetoric and polished dialectic of philosophical treatises.Hays’ translation may be more accessible and Hard’s is occasionally more beautiful, but Hammond’s is the one I feel most accurately represents the contents of this unusual artifact of noble ambition, strife, and suffering. It is the most human of the three, in my opinion.
I did my best to read this book slowly, but I feel like I still didn’t read it slowly enough to get everything out of it. Probably it’s best to just read a meditation or two a day and to think long on them yourself, but that’s not going to happen in the real world. Originally written as notes by Marcus Aurelius to himself, it seems one can still find a lot to apply to one’s own non-emperor of Rome life in these nearly 2,000 year old meditations. Admittedly, I wasn’t as blown away as I thought I might be, finally reading through these after hearing how tremendously influential and inspiring others have found these writings through the centuries. It seems a lot of the pieces cover the same ground, just slightly re-worded… so sometimes reading these notes as a book does feel a bit repetitive. Also some pieces that try to describe the nature of the world as perfect, or the god’s perfection, just read off from a more modern perspective (or anyway from my 2020 perspective, which could be wrong, I guess). The most useful ideas I’m keeping in mind from this were the meditations on staying calm, not letting yourself get angry at other’s actions, being kind and trying to do good, and the idea that the years before you were born are endless and the years after you are dead are endless and the universe is huge, thus our time and life is tiny, so don’t get so worked up about it.
Classic book and it’s a penguin edition. Must read for anyone interested in this subject. I highly recommend it cause it’s a penguin edition.
Truly beautiful words. I’ve never read anything quite like it. Simple and yet profound . I find that when I read it my mind calms and i am completely relaxed. It’s very interesting to see the ways in which philosophy parallels with religion. I guess if you live long enough and reflect and observe life’s truths are relatively universal.
Marcus Aurelius was an emperor of Rome, but this is not what he is remembered for. What really draws us to him is the set of journals which he kept for himself–books which he wrote purely for himself, but which speak to millions even today. These books contained words of wisdom–words that kept him strong in times of stress and danger. One of the primary messages that runs through the book is the idea that all that occurs in life is nothing new. There are many things beyond our control which may cause us stress. However, he puts forth the idea that what causes the stress is not the things that happen to us, but the way in which we react. Instead of complaining about the things we cannot change, we should change how we react to the things that happen to us. In other words, change yourself before you try to change the world. You’ll find it to be much more achievable.I really recommend this book for everyone. In particular, if you are going through any stress in your life, this would provide some support in helping you through tough times. A must-have for every library.
If you expect this book to be anything but common sense and practical idioms you are mistaken. The genius is this common sense and practical knowledge is tested and elaborated on by the most powerful man on earth at that time and one of the most respected of his empire, a good judge of ethics and morals. Marcus Aurelius neither intended this to be a radical new treatise, or even published for that matter; instead these are the reiterations of a student of Stoicism, reinforcing his willpower in face of his self-acknowledged weaknesses, and in that regard an intriguing, intimate look into one of the few “philospher kings” of Plato’s dreaming.His philosophy, sometimes rambling, often redundant, and idiosyncratic (repetition of the theme of afterlife), is nothing new to anyone who has studied Stoicism. For those unfamiliar, it reads easily and has a non-academic feel without sinking to a “dear diary” sappiness. These are real-life politics and wars he is describing, and he’s the one responsible for pulling the empire through it. The brief maxims and longer diatribes are not profession in nature or necessarily inspiring, but are timeless all the same, and like the Ecclesiastes and the Upanishads, a practical code to follow. A book I will likely come back to again and again.
I thought I had made a mistake upon reading several negative reviews and was very relieved to find that the negative reviews belonged to a different translation.This Penguin Classics translation by Martin Hammond is very good.
This book was my introduction to Stoicism and my first philosophical book in general. Compared to books I read afterwards, this book is easy to read, seeing as it is mostly written in standalone paragraphs. The detailed notes that accompany most of these paragraphs do indeed help in better understanding both the context in which the book was written and the ideas themselves.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.
A very deep thought provoking book. Consisting of 12 short books on the principles and philosophies of living a good life, acknowledging the present moment, looking within and being of good virtue. Precise and razor sharp with its principles on purposeful action and thought. This book has changed my views on life, the way I view people, problems, joy, pain, and situations. It has taught me patience, resilience and the power of indifference. A question I often ask myself is: Am I offended by the “thing” that happened to me or my judgement of the “thing” that happened to me? One of the many questions you will begin to ask yourself after reading this book.Often times its our judgements about things that cause us pain and distress. Remove the judgement and you are no longer harmed. Remove the thought “I am hurt” and the hurt itself is removed. Very difficult to implement but once you start you will see how much life is about adjusting how your ‘directing mind’ views things.This book touches greatly on being of good virtue which comes down to your character and mindset. These are one of, if not the most immeasurable traits you have and you must refine them constantly in your pursuit of arete.I could go on and on about this book but I only have so much characters for this short review.Very insightful read and worth it. So many life lessons, wisdom, practical guidance and knowledge to be used in everyday life. You won’t be disappointed with this timeless classic.
I was nervous before reading this book. I have done some light reading on stoicism and watched videos on Youtube and it had become clear that this book was a must read for. The expectations had built up and I was worried that it might be a case of don’t meet your heroes. Fortunately I couldn’t have been more wrong as the tales of being emperor of antiquities most revered society infused with such wisdom was fascinating
Marcus Aurelius offers a remarkable, challenging spiritual reflections and exercises developed as the emperor struggled to understand himself and make sense of the universe. Providing personal consolation and encouragement, Marcus Aurelius also created one of the greatest of all works of philosophy. A timeless collection that has been consulted and admired by statesmen, thinkers and readers throughout the centuries.
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