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Musonius Rufus: Lectures and Sayings

Musonius Rufus: Lectures and Sayings [Kindle Edition]

Cynthia King , William Irvine
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

Musonius Rufus (c. AD 30–100) was one of the four great Roman Stoic philosophers, the other three being Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, and Musonius’ pupil Epictetus. During his life, Musonius’ Stoicism was put to the test, most notably during an exile to Gyaros, a barren island in the Aegean Sea.

Because Stoicism was, for Musonius, not merely a philosophy but a prescription for daily living, he has been called “the Roman Socrates.” MUSONIUS RUFUS: LECTURES AND SAYINGS will therefore be welcomed by those who seek insight into the practice of Stoicism.

In this volume, readers will find Cynthia King’s translation of Musonius’ lectures, as recorded by his pupil Lucius; the sayings attributed to Musonius by ancient writers; an exchange of letters between Musonius and Apollonius of Tyana; and a letter from Musonius to Pankratides. This volume also includes a preface by William B. Irvine, author of A GUIDE TO THE GOOD LIFE: THE ANCIENT ART OF STOIC JOY.

About the Author

Cynthia King (translator) is associate professor, emerita, of classics, and William B. Irvine (editor) is professor of philosophy at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 237 KB
  • Print Length: 104 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 145645966X
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00C0EJF8W
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #97,488 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

William B. Irvine is professor of philosophy at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. For more on his life and writings, visit his author website at

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Happiness and contentment in the 1st century 25 Mar 2011
Gaius Musonius Rufus was a Roman 1st-century Stoic philosopher. The most famous works by Stoic philosophers are those by Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius. There are however a number of lesser-known works by Stoic writers, of which the most important is perhaps this collection of lectures. Musonius Rufus himself wrote nothing, this collection of twenty-one lectures (totalling 59 pages in this 100 page book) is all that survives from the lecture notes compiled by one of his students. In some ways Musonius is similar to his pupil Epictetus in that they were both strongly in favour of simple living, but whereas the Discourses of Epictetus focus heavily on the psychological, the lectures of Musonius focus much more on giving practical advice to a series of specific questions. The questions range from whether girls should receive the same education as boys (something Musonius is firmly in favour of) to questions on marriage, sex, food, clothing, and even cutting the hair. Also included in this book are eight pages of fragments and sayings preserved by other writers, and a short appendix contains the (probably unauthentic) "letters of Musonius."

The 1st-century student who wrote these lectures was no great writer, and what has survived was compressed and edited to fit a 5th-century anthology. But the book provides a direct insight into the 1st-century world, and Musonius Rufus comes across as one of the most likeable and humane figures of the ancient world. Above all, this is a man who wants people to practice philosophy so that they can be happy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 2000 years ago? 14 Dec 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book could have been written two weeks ago let alone nearly 2000 years ago, I found it very helpful in re-evaluating my life, recommended to anyone interested in ancient stoics and their theories
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Additional Stoic Resource 29 Aug 2011
By Wylie - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This text is best seen as an additional resource for those interested in classic Stoicism, rather than as a stand alone representation of a philosophic system. This is due to the fact that we have only fragments (many approximately chapter length) of Musonius' teaching. However, as an additional resource, this a gem. Especially precious are Musonius' reflections on what it is a to be a philosopher, what work is appropriate to a philosopher, the nature of marriage, and the education of female philosophers. As this list suggests, Musonius sees philosophy not as a specialized discipline, but as an essential human task compatible with a fully human life (and the mundate fabric of that life). Many of these remarks are Musonius' replies to questions from students. Therefore, while not systematic, they show a philosophic mind in action, going where the concern of the student demands.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much needed 11 Jun 2011
By rodrigo - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've been looking for a good English translation of Musonius Rufus for a while, I was very pleased to find this. If you like Seneca, Marcus Aurelius or Epictetus, you'll love this. highly recommended
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, after 50 years! 13 Aug 2011
By Michel Daw - Published on
Finally, after about 50 years, a new translation of this great Stoic is available. King's translation in transparent, allowing us to sit at the feet of this great teacher. While there are a few terms that are transliterated, they are accompanied by explanatory footnotes, and serve to remind us that while these words are desperately needed in our day, they were taught nearly 2000 years ago. Wonderful work, and congratulations to both Bill and Cynthia for a successful, if long and hard fought, accomplishment.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ancient Wisdom from an Obscure Philosopher 9 July 2011
By David W. Naas - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Roman Stoics, Rufus, Epictetus, Seneca, and Aurelius, had much to say to 21st Century humanity. Rufus is both the most obscure of the lot, and the teacher of the rest, in one way or another. He is far from political correctness, which only demontrates his wisdom. This translation makes him easily understood, and is a good place to begin study of how to live a human life.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as the other great stoics 9 Oct 2013
By Eric Kim - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I just finished this superb and surprisingly easy to read translation of Rufus. I have read Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, and Epictetus thoroughly - and just came upon Rufus. I ordered the book, and loved the translations, the formatting, and of course the wisdom of Rufus. I love his practical advice in life. Some of the lessons I have learned from him in the book (just a summary):

On how to become a philosopher:

"The person who is practicing to become a philosopher must seek to overcome himself so that he won't welcome pleasure and avoid pain, so that he won't love living and fear death, and so that, in the case of money, he won't honor receiving over giving."

On acquiring good things by pain

"In order for us to withstand more easily and eagerly the pains we would be suffering on account of virtue and noble character, it is useful to consider how much trouble those who pursue illicit love-affairs undergo because of their wicked passions, how much others put up with for the sake of gain, and again how many ills some suffer in pursuit of fame.

On controlling your desires:

"And yet, wouldn't everyone agree that it is much better to work to gain control over one's own desires than it is to work to gain possession of someone else's wife-- and for a person to train himself to want little instead of struggling to become wealthy? And instead of exerting effort to gain fame, shouldn't a person strive to overcome his thirst for it? Instead of searching for a way to damage a person whom he envies, shouldn't he contemplate how not to bear envy against anyone? Instead of being slavish to some so-called friends, who are actually insincere, shouldn't he make sacrifices to win true friends?"

On withstanding abuse from others:

"I could name many other men who were targets of abuse, some verbally attacked and others injured by physical attacks. They appear neither to have defended themselves against their attackers nor to have sought revenge. Instead, they very calmly bore the wrong committed by their attackers. Indeed, plotting how to bite back someone who bites and to return evil against the one who first did evil is characteristic of a beast, not a man. A beast is not able to comprehend that many of the wrongs done to people are done out of ignorance and a lack of understanding. A person who gains this comprehension immediately stops doing wrong."

On working and living with others:

"You will agree that human nature is very much like that of bees. A bee is not able to live alone: it perishes when isolated. Indeed, it is intent on performing the common task of members of its species-- to work and act together with other bees."

On having many children:

"I myself think that the man who lives with many loyal brothers is most worthy of emulation, and I think that the man who enjoys these blessings is most beloved by the gods. Therefore I think that we should try to leave our children brothers rather than possessions, in order to give them greater chances for blessings."

On eating:

"Practice choosing food not for pleasure but for nourishment, not to please his palate but to strengthen his body. The throat was created as a passageway for food, not as an organ for pleasure... Plants take nourishment for the sake of their survival rather than for pleasure, and for humans as well, food is the medicine of life. Therefore, the goal of our eating should be staying alive rather than having pleasure-- at least if we wish to follow the sound advice of Socrates, who said that many men live to eat, but that he ate to live."

"To summarize the whole subject of food, I say that the goal of eating is to bring about both health and strength. Consequently, one should eat only inexpensive foods and should be concerned with decency and appropriate moderation and, most of all, with restrained and studious behavior."

On clothing:

"One should seek protection for the body that is modest, not expensive and excessive. One should use clothing and footwear in the same way as one uses armor: to defend the body, not to show off. The strongest weapons and those most able to keep their user safe are the best, not those that attract attention because of their sheen. Likewise, the clothing and footwear that provide the most protection for the body, not those that can attract the gaze of foolish people, are best."

On bearing the cold:

"It is a mistake to bundle up the body in a lot of clothes or envelope it in shawls or wrap up hands and feet in felt or heavy cloth-- unless, that is, one is ill It is a mistake for peoplee to dress so that they never experience cold and heat. To the contrary, they should be somewhat cold in winter, get out in the sun in summer, and stay in the shade very little.

On homes:

"Since we build houses to protect ourselves from the elements, these houses, too, I think should be built to provide only what is needed: to keep out cold and excessive heat, and to protect those who needed to be protected from the wind. Our dwelling, in other words, should provide us the protection we could expect from a cave-- one big enough for ourselves and our stores of food."

"Why are there courtyards surrounded by colonnades? Why are there paints of different colors? Why are there gilded ceilings? Why the great outlays for stones, some used to pave the earth, some laid into walls, and some brought from very far away at very great expense? Aren't all these things excessive and unnecessary? One can, after all, not only live but flourish without them. Doesn't acquiring them involve both a lot of trouble and the expenditure of a lot of money-- money, one should add, that could be used to help many people both publicly and privately?"

"Isn't it more praiseworthy to help a lot of people than to live expensively? Isn't spending money on people much more notable than spending it on wood and stones? Isn't it much more worthwhile to have a lot of friends (as a result of doing good deeds cheerfully) than to have a big house? What benefits from having a big and beautiful house could match those that could be derived from using one's possession to help one's city and its citizens?"

On furnishing a home:

"On the whole, we can judge whether various household furnishings are good or bad by determining what it takes to acquire them, use them, and keep them safe. Things that are difficult to acquire, hard to use, or difficult to guard are inferior; things that are easy to acquire, are a pleasure to use and are easily guarded are superior."

On living in luxury:

"I myself would choose to be sick rather than to live in luxury. Being sick harms the body only; living in luxury harms both soul and body, by making the body weak and powerless and the soul undisciplined and cowardly. Surely luxurious living fosters injustice because it also fosters greed. A person who lives extravagantly cannot help but spend a lot and therefore cannot want to spend little. Furthermore, because he wants many things, he can't refrain from trying to acquire them, and when he sets out to acquire them, he can't help grabbing for too much and being unjust. No one can acquire many things without being unjust."

On living well:

"It is not possible to live well today unless you treat it as your last day."

On pleasure:

"It is the height of shamelessness to think about how weak our bodies are when enduring pain, but to forget how weak we are when experiencing pleasure."

On leading:

"Kings should perish who make a habit of justifying their actions to their subjects by saying "I have the power" rather than "It is my duty."

On wealth:

"We will hold that one man and one man only is truly wealthy--he who learns to want nothing in every circumstance."

On hard work:

"If you accomplish something good with hard work, the labor passes quickly, but the good endures; if you do something shameful in pursuit of pleasure, the pleasure passes quickly, but the shame endures."

On training the mind:

"To let one's mind go lax is, in effect, to lose it."

On encouraging others:

"When you want to encourage someone who is tired and has given up, tell them: "Why do you stand there? What are you looking for? Do you expect the god himself to come and speak to you? Cut out the dead part of your soul, and you will recognize the god."

Overall a 5 stars- order this book right now.
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