The communings with himself of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus
Emperor of Rome, together with his speeches and sayings; a revised text and a translation into English by C.R. Haines
This is another translation of Marcus Aurelius thoughts, Marcus Aurelius did not call his writings meditations, so C.R. Haines called it "communings" which means; to get very close to someone or something by exchanging feelings or thoughts, This translation is newer than George Long Translation.
The Greek text of this book is often difficult and in many places corrupt beyond cure, but no trouble has been spared to make the translation as accurate and idiomatic as possible. I have preferred to err, if error it is, on the side of over-faithfulness, because the physiognomy of the book owes so much to the method and style in which it is written. Its homeliness, abruptness, and want of literary finish (though it does not lack rhetoric) are part of the character of the work, and we alter this character by rewriting it into the terse, epigrammatic, staccato style so much in vogue at the present day.
Another reason for literalness is that it makes a comparison with the Greek, printed beside it, easier for the unlearned. When a work has been translated so often as this one, it is difficult to be original without deviating further from the text, but I have not borrowed a phrase, scarcely a word, from any of my predecessors.
If unconscious coincidences appear, it remains only to say Pereant qui ante nos nostra dixerunt !! Numerous references (such as have proved so invaluable for the due understanding of the Bible) and good indices have always been greatly wanted in the translations of this work, and I have taken pains to supply the want. For a better understanding of the character of Marcus, I have added to the Thoughts translations of his Speeches and Sayings, with a Note on his attitude towards the Christians (in which I am glad to find myself in complete agreement with M. Lemercier).
A companion volume on the Correspondence with Fronto will contain all his extant Letters.
In conclusion, my best thanks are due to Messrs. Teubner for permission to use their text as the basis of the revised one here printed, to Professors Leopold and Schenkl for advice and help on various points, and, last but not least, to my predecessors in the translation of this " Golden Book."
IT is not known how this small but priceless book of private devotional memoranda l came to be preserved for posterity. But the writer that in it puts away all desire for after-fame has by means of it attained to imperishable remembrance.
As Renan has said, " tous, tant que nous sommes, nous portons au coeur le deuil de Marc Aurele comme s il etait mort d hier." Internal evidence proves that the author was Marcus Antoninus, emperor of Rome 7 March 161 to 17 March 180, and notes added in one MS between Books I and II and II and III shew that the second Book was composed when the writer was among the Quadi on the Gran, and the third at Carnuntum (Hamburg).
The headquarters of Marcus in the war against the barbarians were at Carnuntum 171-173, and we know that the so-called "miraculous victory " against the Quadi was in 174.
But Professor Schenkl has given good reasons for thinking that the first book was really written last and prefixed as a sort of introduction to the rest of the work.
It was probably written as a whole, while the other books consist mostly of disconnected jottings. The style throughout is abrupt and concise, and words have occasionally to be supplied to complete the sense. There is here no reasoned treatise on Ethics, no exposition of Stoic Philosophy, such as the sectarum ardua ac perocculta 1 or the ordo praeceptionum, on which Marcus is said to have discoursed before he set out the last time for the war in 178, but we have a man and a ruler taking counsel with himself, noting his own shortcomings, excusing those of others, and " whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honourable, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are pure," exhorting his soul to think on these things.
Never were words written more transparently single-hearted and sincere. They were not merely written, they were lived. Those who accuse Marcus of pharisaism willfully mistake his character and betray their own. Very noticeable is the delicacy of the author s mind and the restrained energy of his style. He eschews all the windflowers of speech, but the simplicity, straightforwardness, and dignity of his thoughts lend an imperial nobility to his expression of them.
There is a certain choiceness and even poetry in his words "which amply condone an occasional roughness and technicality of phrase. Striking images are not infrequent, and such a passage as Book II is unique in ancient literature.
This is not a book of confessions, and comparatively few allusions to personal incidents are to be found except in the first book, while an air of complete aloofness and detachment pervades the whole. The author expressly disclaims all Spximys or originality and xii 1 Victor de Caes. xvi. 9. 2 Vulc. Gallicanus Vit. Av. Cass. iii. the acuteness of intellect, and there is a good deal of repetition unavoidable in the nature of the work, for " line upon line" and " precept upon precept" is required in all moral teaching.
Of his two great Stoic predecessors, Marcus has no affinity with Seneca. He certainly knew all about him and they have many thoughts l in common, but Seneca s rhetorical flamboyance, his bewildering contradictions, the glaring divergence between his profession and his practice have no counterpart in Marcus. Epictetus the Phrygian slave was his true spiritual father-, but we do not find in the Emperor the somewhat rigid didacticism and spiritual dogmatism of his predecessor. Marcus is humbler and not so confident.
The hardness and arrogance of Stoicism are softened in him by an infusion of Platonism and other philosophies. With the Peripatetics, he admits the inequality of faults. His humanity will not cast out compassion as an emotion of the heart.
His is no cut and dried creed, for he often wavers and is inconsistent. Call not his teaching ineffectual. He is not trying to teach anyone. He is reasoning with his own soul and championing its cause against the persuasions and impulses of the flesh. How far did he succeed? "By nature a good man," says Dio, "his education and the moral training he imposed upon himself made him a far better one. " " As was natural to one who had beautified his soul with every virtuous quality he was innocent of all wrong-doing."
The wonderful revelation here given of the aa-Kqvis of the spiritual athlete in the contests of life is full of inspiration still even for the modern world. It has been and is a source of solace and strength to thousands, and has helped to mould the characters of more than one leader of men, such as Frederick the Great/ Maximilian of Bavaria,
Captain John Smith, the saviour of Virginia, and that noble Christian soldier, General Gordon. It was but the other day, on the fiftieth anniversary of Italian Unity, that the King of Italy, speaking 4 on the Capitol, referred to Marcus " as the sacred and propitiatory image of that cult of moral and civil law which our Fatherland wishes to follow," a reference received with particular applause by those who heard it.
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