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Meditations (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

Marcus Aurelius , Diskin Clay
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 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.

Frequently Bought Together

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: 18.6 x 14.4 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,863 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"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.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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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
13 of 13 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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79 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meditations 22 Nov 2007
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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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 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring. 5 Sep 2011
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A breath of fresh vision 6 Sep 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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 when we cling to life at all costs. I liked his idea that nature needs no rubbish bin-all is recycled and made anew, and we are a part of that.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic of Personal Reflection Literature 4 April 2011
By Dr. Bojan Tunguz TOP 500 REVIEWER
Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor from the second part of the second century AD. He is considered the last of the five "good emperors," and he ruled around the time of empire's greatest extent. However, even in his own time many cracks that were later to undermine the entire political and social structure of the empire were becoming visible. The Roman world was experiencing constant turmoil, from triumphant victories on the battlefield to internal strife and constant civil disturbances. Many citizens of the empire sought some semblance of stability and meaningfulness amidst all these uncertainties, resorting to various new religious movements or to philosophical schools of thought. One of these schools of philosophy - Stoicism - enjoyed a significant following with the Roman elite. Marcus Aurelius was probably the most prominent example of this trend, and comes closest to a Platonic ideal of philosopher-king.

"Meditations" were written in Greek (the language of learning and education at the time) during several military campaigns between 170 AD and 180 AD. They were intended as personal reflections on various aspects of one's life, the values that one has espoused, and the way that these have played out in the real world situations. These are quintessentially personal musings that don't aim to establish or further the Stoic school of thought, even thought they are firmly based in this philosophical tradition. Nonetheless, it is this straightforward genuineness coupled with an easy and accessible style that has made "Meditations" into a classic. By reflecting on them we can appreciate the timelessness of some fundamental human concerns and gain a greater insight into the human condition that transcends even our own metaphysical outlooks. At the very least we realize that we have much more in common with the 2nd century Roman emperor than we had ever thought to be the case.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
All as promised thank you
Published 17 days ago by Kathleen
3.0 out of 5 stars I need to review this book before I can read it?
Like I said in the subject title, I can not flip to the page where Book 1 begins without writing a review, system error? Or it's me being silly?
Published 26 days ago by Piaohan Xu
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
What a great bloke! Thoughtful, modest and inspiring and, in this translation, very readable.
Published 1 month ago by Pauline Buckland
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Published 1 month ago by Edward Thomas
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great book wonderful insight
Published 1 month ago by derek lynch
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by Dr A. S Burman
4.0 out of 5 stars Book itself is good but quality
The quality of the book, the covers etc are okay. It has a few scuff marks some how but the book itself is great.
Published 2 months ago by Rohit Mohan
4.0 out of 5 stars A Classic...
Decent translation & acceptable presentation of a Stoic classic. Why pay more ? No reason to in this case, really.
Published 5 months ago by GPM1
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 6 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 8 months ago by Derek Simpson
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