Originally published on Goodreads
First of all I read the Gregory Hays translation which I think was pretty good and fairly easy to read.
Meditations is a book written by Marcus Aurelius who was the emperor of the Roman Empire from 161 A.D. to 180 A.D. As a Roman Emperor who presided the Roman Empire when it was still strong he has had some unique insight to life and we can consider ourselves lucky to even have this work of his as it was written by him and most likely for himself too. As of such the book can sometimes seem a bit hard to follow as some of it references things that we have no chance of knowing now and the translator himself admits that he had to cut some sections because it would not make sense. Despite of this it remains one of the best resources on stoicism. Considering what he has lived through (early death of his father, war with Parthia, war with Dacia, rising trouble with the Germanic tribes) his legacy is still as one of the best Roman Emperors. This incredible feat requires a strong character and in Meditations you sense what underlies the actions of Marcus Aurelius.
The book is filled with great quotes and lines about the tenets of stoicism and is distilled by Marcus Aurelius as three things: perception, action and will. Marcus Aurelius explains about perception as such: “Disgust at what things are made of: Liquid, dust, bones, filth. Or marble as hardened dirt, gold and silver as residues, clothes as hair, purple dye as shellfish blood.” This means that see things for what they really are and try not to put your own or others opinion in it. Of action he writes: “treat this person as he should be treated.” Of always doing what is right and in much tradition with the Roman duty. Of will he writes that everyone should learn the art of acquiescence. This means to accept the things that are beyond your control.
The book itself is filled with many more writings about stoicism and reflects more on these three tenets and other aspects of stoicism. The book itself can be a bit hard to read through as it reads more like a stream of consciousness but I would recommend it to anyone curious about stoicism. If this book is just too hard to read through then you should check out Letters from a Stoic written by Seneca which is in letter style and more easily readable. But this and Seneca’s work are both highly recommended by me.
5 out of 5 stars.