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Meditations (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

Marcus Aurelius , Diskin Clay
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
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Book Description

27 April 2006 Penguin Classics

Originally written only for his personal consumption, Marcus Aurelius's Meditations has become a key text in the understanding of Roman Stoic philosophy. This Penguin Classics edition is translated with notes by Martin Hammond and an introduction by Diskin Clay.

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 Aurelius's own emotions. 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.

Martin Hammond's new translation fully expresses the intimacy and eloquence of the original work, with detailed notes elucidating the text. This edition also includes an introduction by Diskin Clay, exploring the nature and development of the Meditations, a chronology, further reading and full indexes.

Marcus Aelius Aurelius Antoninus (121-80) was adopted by the emperor Antoninus Pius and succeeded him in 161, (as joint emperor with adoptive brother Lucius Verus). He ruled alone from 169, and spent much of his reign in putting down various rebellions, and was a persecutor of Christians. His fame rest, above all, on his Meditations, a series of reflections, strongly influenced by Epictetus, which represent a Stoic outlook on life. He was succeeded by his natural son, thus ending the period of the adoptive emperors.

If you enjoyed Meditations, you might like Seneca's Letters from a Stoic, also available in Penguin Classics.


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Meditations (Penguin Classics) + Letters from a Stoic: Epistulae Morales Ad Lucilium (Classics) + Discourses and Selected Writings (Penguin Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (27 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140449337
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140449334
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 7.8 x 0.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,162 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Here, for our age, is [Marcus's] great work presented in its entirety, strongly introduced and freshly, elegantly translated." --Robert Fagles "From the Trade Paperback edition.

About the Author

Marcus Aelius Aurelius Antoninus, 121-180. was adopted by the emperor Antoninus Pius and succeeded him in 161, (as joint emperor with adoptive brother Lucius Verus). He ruled alone from 169. He spent much of his reign in putting down variou rebellions, and was a persecutor of Christians. His fame rest, above all, on his Meditations, a series of reflections, strongly influenced by Epictetus, which represent a Stoic outlook on life. He died in 180 and was succeed by his natural son, thus ending the period of the adoptive emperors.

Diskin Clay is Professor of Classical Studies at Duke University and has published widely in the area of Ancient Greek Philosophy.

Martin Hammond is Head Master of Tonbridge School and has translated Homer's Iliad for Penguin Classics.


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First Sentence
From my grandfather Verus: decency and a mild temper. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
72 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meditations 22 Nov 2007
Format:Paperback
In Plato's Republic, Socrates discusses the possibility of a philosopher king; that is, a person who would rule in a way that is just, because their thoughts and desires are outgrowths of their philosophical ideologies. Socrates suggests that this would be the best of all possible rulers - and, of course, the implication is that Plato would be this greatest ruler, because the philosophy a ruler 'should' follow, was Plato's. Marcus Aurelius was Emperor of Rome from 161 A.D. until his death in 180 A.D. He was the last of the five great Emperors who ruled Rome during a period which Edward Gibbon, writing his magnificent The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, described as the time when the world was at its happiest and most prosperous. He was not, as far as anyone else knew, a philosopher - he was simply (and sufficiently) a proficient Emperor, an able ruler, a good statesmen. And yet, in those quiet moments of leisure when he was able to take off the mantle of Emperor, Marcus Aurelius composed some of the most important works of Stoic philosophy. A series of meditations, exercises for himself, admonitions to himself, exhortations of how to be a better person.

What is immediately clear about Aurelius' Meditations is that they were written for an intimate audience of one. There is no grandstanding or pompous declarations of power or influence. There are no revelations or secrets or negative comments about current affairs. Whatever Marcus Aurelius' thoughts on the world outside himself, we are left mostly in the dark for this work. Rather, what he has done - or aims to do - is to intimately examine himself, to highlight his flaws and to recognise, but not always praise, his positive qualities.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stoicism for Monarchs 14 Jan 2004
By Peter Reeve VINE VOICE
Format:Mass Market Paperback
If you are at all interested in the history of philosophical or theological thought, then you will want to acquaint yourself with the writings of Marcus Aurelius. In this work addressed to himself (he originally entitled it "To Myself" and it later came to be known as the "Meditations") he distills the essence of Stoicism, one of the most important and influential schools of classical philosophy. The Staniforth translation combines elegance and clarity, and the introduction and notes are excellent, so the Penguin edition is probably the one to go for, although some readers favour the Hays translation, which is more direct and colloquial. Staniforth argues persuasively that Stoicism formed the rational basis for the fledgling Christian theology. (Interestingly, there is one, rather disparaging, reference to Christians in the text, which I suppose illustrates how significant the movement had become, a century after the death of its founder. Many scholars believe this to be an interpolation by a later author). Indeed, the similarity of this work to the late medieval "The Imitation of Christ" is striking. Part of the fascination of "Meditations" lies, of course, in the fact that Marcus was emperor of Rome, the greatest power on Earth at that time. We thus get an insight into the mind of an important historical character. This also means that much of what occupied him is hardly relevant to you or me. How many of us are plagued with sycophantic courtiers, or need to remind ourselves that the adulation of the mob may be short-lived? Yet it is clear that, despite all his power and privilege, Marcus was a troubled and pensive soul. One might say that "Meditations" is Stoicism for monarchs, whereas "The Imitation" is Stoicism for monks. If you enjoy one of those books, the chances are you will enjoy the other.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Maybe the best self-help book ever written? 7 Feb 2008
By Colin Mccartney TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
Marcus's meditations never fail to make me feel better about the world and the best aspect of all is that his philosophy doesn't involve any radical lifestyle change. Indeed one of its basic assumptions is that you should have an unquestioning acceptance of who you are, whoever you are. Buy this and carry it with you at all times (it's not a big book by the way).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There's an episode of Dad's Army where the English Captain Mainwaring turns out to be able to play the bagpipes. He explains his skill by revealing that he spent his two-week honeymoon in Scotland, and that there wasn't much else to do. Marcus Aurelius, who as Emperor of Rome was higher up the army ranks than Mainwaring, probably felt the same way about northern Germany, where he spent his time trying to defeat the barbarians. To pass the hours he scribbled down jottings and ideas about how to live a fulfilled life that eventually became Meditations, one of the most wonderful personal philosophies ever written.

The thoughts and ideas here are connected by Aurelius' interest in the Stoic philosophy, but they are not a narrative so the book can be opened at any page or read in any order as each paragraph is a single idea, observation or point he wished to make. Aurelius comes across as an incredibly sane, warm, open and tolerant individual and although he personally believes in a divine nature, an atheist can happily enjoy his writing.

The Stoics were interested in logic, physics and ethics. These terms didn't hold their current meanings so Logic meant closely observing the world and thinking carefully and deriving knowledge and opinions about what you have seen. Physics is essentially the idea that the universe has a force of nature running through it and there's a connectedness between all things. Finally Ethics is how to be happy, which to the stoics meant living in tune with the rest of nature. It all sounds rather new age and vague but Aurelius' genius is to boil this down to a practical formula for everyday living.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Top notch Product and Service
Delivered in time and in the quality described. Have not read yet, but am a big fan of Stoicism, so will look forward to it.
Published 2 months ago by MISS C A BRADSHAW
4.0 out of 5 stars Timeless
One to dip into when life is all confusion. Clarity on horseback. Eight more words required to complete the review says the message which weighs thought in syllables. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Derek Simpson
5.0 out of 5 stars perfect
an addition to a collection of philosophical works for my father on his birthday, a book to dip into rather than read in one go.
Published 7 months ago by sam
5.0 out of 5 stars A breath of fresh vision
I was amazed how accessible this is, and how inspiring. His attitude to death as a part of the natural cycle to be accepted as a good thing is very different from attitudes today... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Susan margaret jackson
4.0 out of 5 stars Marcus Aurelius's "Meditations"
An interesting insight into the various spiritual dilemmas that plagued a Roman Emperor. A lot of topics are repeated throughout the book, just phrased differently, which can be a... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Dave Smith
3.0 out of 5 stars pocket book.
its a small pocket book which i wasnt expecting.perhaps it was in the description but who reads all of that?
Published 9 months ago by AA.
5.0 out of 5 stars meditative
An old classic. One hardly notices the 2000 year difference in real thinking displayed in these words. Very thought provoking. Recommended read for all.
Published 12 months ago by weiver
5.0 out of 5 stars Philosopher
A great book - didn't take me long to get through it probably because I found it so interesting as it's the first of it's kind I've ever read. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Misty
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth Reading
It may take a while to sift out what is important to you from these meditations, but it is worth going through the process. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Elizabeth Mason
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring.
Compelling and inspiring. This should be essential reading. If everyone read this book and adopted it's principles the world would be a utopia. Perfection.
Published on 5 Sep 2011 by @garethalteran
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